It’s been nearly two years since I last posted. TWO YEARS! I haven’t forgotten about my little blog. It’s been quietly nagging me in the back of my mind. For two years I’ve been thinking about and meaning to get back to it, but life has been so busy. In those two years I increased the amount of hours I am at work and our two kids are now school age and involved in more activities (soccer, swimming, gymnastics, piano). I value our quiet time and we all enjoy just hanging out at home and playing in the back yard. We aren’t usually involved in that many things at one time. However, in an effort to try different things and see what the kids really enjoy (in addition to wanting the kids to learn how to swim), it feels like we’ve been overdoing it. My son informed me last night that he’s ready to take a break from swimming. Right on. He’s been doing great and has really progressed since he started winter lessons in January, but a break is definitely due.
One of the highlights of the last year is that we now have backyard chickens! I plan to write a whole post on that, but in short: husband built a coop and a run, and in March 2015 we got six Golden Comet chicks (red sexlinks). The kids loved watching them grow from chicks and have continued to love and care for them. They even gave them names. The chickens deserve a blog post of their own, so we’ll cover all that next time around.
In the meantime, it’s April and the weather has been gorgeous (except for the last few days of heavy rain). We’ve gotten our garden started, and since my garden is the topic I blog about most (aside from my kids, maybe), I wanted to share a few pics of what we’ve got going. I’m also home today with a sick kindergartener, so while she’s resting and watching The Land Before Time (a favorite movie series around here), I decided to finally bring back the blog. 🙂
Our new chicken coop and run along the side of the garden. Also, last year Mr. L. added a fence around the garden to keep the chickens, dogs and deer out. It’s been working great!
This is late afternoon and as you can see, the garden gets a good bit of shade then. I usually try to start planting in the far end and save the sunniest parts of the garden for tomatoes.
The first transplants include cabbage, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. I will need to keep an eye on them so I can see when the cabbage worms start to show up, then take action.
Our “walking onions” popping through! My dad gave me a bunch of these a few years ago and I save the bulbs to replant each year. They develop a flower at the top with a bunch of new bulbs that get heavy and plop over, starting a new plant, which is how they “walk”.
These two were really into helping garden this month, so we harnessed that enthusiasm! They helped plant onions, potatoes, and green beans. Miss D. also helped transplant the Brassicas one afternoon when her brother was at soccer practice. We still have lots to do!
At the recommendation of my Uncle Joe, I’m currently reading Growing Great Tomatoes in preparation of planting our own tomatoes in the next week or so. I’m also checking out Straw Bale Gardens and am thinking of giving that technique a try at some point. There’s always so much to learn!
To be continued…
Posted in Book Recommendations, Gardening, My Kids, The Great Outdoors, Uncategorized
Tagged backyard chickens, brassicas, broccoli, cabbage, chicken coop, family, garden, gardening, green beans, kale, kids, onions, plants, potatoes, seeds, spring, tomatoes, vegetables
Look at these two beauties that I pulled from different parts of the garden on Saturday. The one on top was in my turnip patch… so that’s definitely a turnip. The bottom one showed up in my radish and carrot patch, but it looks more like a turnip than a radish. The leaves on the two are practically identical, but the radish-turnip was starting to flower. I pulled them both but I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with them. I am thinking of just roasting them with some carrots and potatoes. I’m hoping they both are actually turnips; I don’t think roasted radish would taste very good.
In other garden-related news, I started to lose faith in the tomato and pepper plants that I started from seed. Some are doing okay, but many of them are not looking great and I started to worry that this year’s tomato harvest would be as disappointing as last year’s. This past weekend I decided I would go to the garden store and buy some new pepper and tomato plants to at least supplement the plants I grew myself, in case mine were a bust. I also got a couple of large pottery planters. I didn’t pull out all of my tomato and pepper plants, but I pulled out the weakest-looking half of them and replaced them with the much-more-robust-looking nursery plants. I also put a few plants in the planters. I’d say a full 1/4 of my garden is dedicated to tomatoes and peppers, so I’m hoping for a good harvest. Last year was my first try at canning, so I hope to do a lot more of that this year, especially using tomatoes.
I did better this year with the plants I started from seed, but I still don’t have a system down and don’t completely know what I’m doing; I left some plants in the trays for much too long and it seems to have stunted their growth. The plants that I re-potted first were clearly the most happy.
Miss D helping me move tomato plants around while claiming a few of them as her own. “Mine!”
I waited a couple of extra weeks past our last frost date to plant tomatoes and peppers and, with the cold nights we had in late April, I carried these plants in and out of the garage each day for about a week. It was only within the last couple of weeks that I started to put them in the ground, and the garden began to look complete.
The warmer weather coupled with the plentiful rain we received over the last few weeks has really given the garden a boost. Here’s the garden on April 26th.
Here it is just two weeks later, on May 10th.
Don’t my potatoes (left middle) look great? The beans got a cold and soggy start and weren’t looking great, so I pulled some of them and replanted. I also planted a row of sweet potatoes last Sunday. I ordered them through a mail-order catalog and would you believe this is what they looked like when they came?
The instructions that came with the plants mentioned that they might be wilted and that I should not be concerned; they are resilient plants and should recover “under the right conditions”. I guess we’ll see if we have the right conditions.
Lastly, there has already been a visitor in the garden foraging on my plants and it appears to enjoy eating the entire plant! It leaves nothing behind but a small hole in the ground where the plant used to be. So far I’ve lost a tomato plant, a Brussels sprout plant, and a sweet potato plant. I don’t remember this happening last year–entire plants disappearing. Based on the hoof print in the fresh mud that I saw the other day, I suspect its deer. I’ll have to start mixing up a home-made deer deterrent. Last year I tried Deer Scram, which seemed to work, but it’s pricey. If you have a tried-and-true deer deterrent that doesn’t involve chemicals or firearms, I’d love to hear it!
By the way, did you notice the children’s garden in the photos above? It’s growing like mad! All of the plants in there are far outperforming the crops in the main garden! I’m not sure what their secret is but I’ve got a lot of work to do!
Posted in Children's Garden, Gardening
Tagged animals, beans, Brussel sprouts, childrens garden, deer, deer deterrent, garden, gardening, last frost date, pests, plants, potatoes, repotting, seedlings, seeds, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, transplanting
I have a large part of our garden planted already…. probably too much for having not even reached the average date of last frost yet, which is April 18th. I’m running out of room and have a ridiculous amount of plants growing in my seed trays!
Patience is the key at this point, though. Last year I don’t think I hardened off my tomato plants properly, so they didn’t get a good start. My plants are looking much better this year, though, and I’m really looking forward to transplanting! Yesterday my daughter grabbed a package of store-bought grape tomatoes out of the refrigerator that weren’t their freshest. They were fine to eat, but starting to get a little wrinkly. After she popped one in her mouth she turned her nose up and declined seconds. Remembering how last year she loved to pick cherry tomatoes right off the vine and eat them, I just thought “Soon, baby… soon.”
Our seedlings have come a long way since we started them at the end of February. The photo below was taken a couple of weeks ago. The tray in the foreground has strawberry plants that I started from seed, but they’re doing pretty poorly (unless they’re supposed to grow at a glacial pace). All of the other plants are quite happy, though. I am planning to buy a grow light system soon (or rigging up a DIY version) so my plants will grow more stout and sturdy rather than being so “leggy”. The fennel plants I’m growing in the trays can barely hold their little leaves up!
I have a whole collection of tomato varieties growing too. I couldn’t resist. I grew some from seeds that I bought last year, as well as several new seeds I bought this year. I even saved some tomato seeds from an organic roma tomato I bought at the grocery store that I overlooked until it was too ripe to eat. You can see how they are doing in the photo below, taken about a week ago. I actually moved some of these plants into bigger containers this past week.
Just a few more days until the last frost date! Since it’s just an average, I may wait an additional week or two on the tomato and pepper plants, just to be safe. It would be such a disappointment to see these guys this far only to lose them.
Posted in Gardening
Tagged fennel, gardening, grow light, last frost, peppers, plants, roma, saving seeds, seedlings, seeds, seeds trays, strawberries, tomatoes, transplanting
I’ve been following several photography blogs and there are many that do 52-week photo projects. The idea is that you work on improving your photography by submitting a photo that you took that fits the theme that the host has chosen for that week. These projects seem really fun, but kind of daunting to me. So, I haven’t participated in any yet.
This past week, however, I revisited one of these blogs, Simple As That, and decided I would try to start doing her “Simple Things Sunday” project. You post one image every Sunday that represents “the simple things” and, as Rebecca said, it’s “all about celebrating the simple things and simple joys that make you smile each week”. I like that. That’s totally my speed and it’s the way I like to photograph my family, anyway. In fact, I’d like to improve how I photograph life’s little moments.
So here’s my first Simple Things Sunday post, and it’s people-less. But I assure you, at least two of us have been smiling all week about the subject of this photo! My son and I planted two seed trays last weekend, and every day new sprouts have been popping up. In fact, we check the trays multiple times a day to see what’s going on with our sprouts. The seedlings are so small and fragile; it’s hard to imagine that some of them will turn into plants that are taller than we are within a few months!
Here are our “Sweetie” cherry tomato plant seedlings reaching for the sky! They were one of my daughter’s favorite tomatoes last year and I hope she enjoys them just as much this year!
"Sweetie" cherry tomato seedlings outdoing their neighbors