Category Archives: garden

Yesterday’s Harvest

From the garden we harvested green beans, tomatoes, beets and cucumbers.

From one hive we harvested 8 frames of honey and wax. Now the bees are cleaning up the frames.

Honey is our oldest hen. She turned 7 this spring.

From the coop we collected 11 eggs. Only 8 of them made it home though. It seems that Ranger learned a new trick. He figured out how to steal eggs out of the egg basket. They didn’t break until he stepped on them. I’m not sure why he decided to take them – either he thought he had found a new toy or he was telling us he wanted to eat. Crazy Dog! LOL!

When The Rains Came

Much needed rain was in the forecast for Sunday night and throughout the day on Monday. We were becoming discouraged as we watched the radar and saw storms to the west fall apart as they crossed lake Michigan. Throughout these days the National Weather Service forecast also changed with chances of rain diminishing from a 70% chance of rain to only a 20% chance that we would get any.

We were so happy Monday evening when the rain started to fall. We had just come from the gardens where I had taken many pictures, that I used in my previous post, and we picked Swiss chard, beets and cucumbers.

As the rain poured down we sat on the barn porch and offered prayers of thanks.

It rained for about 30 minutes or so.

And by the time it was done we had puddles on the driveway.

When the rain was coming to an end we looked to the east for a rainbow – the symbol of hope. The white spots are caused by rain drops. I know the one looks like the moon, but it is not.

It was a complete rainbow – I just couldn’t fit the entire thing in one photo.

The sun was low in the sky as the clouds moved out.

We are so thankful for this life- sustaining rain.

Note: In the early morning hours of Wednesday we had more rain arrive. It started sometime before 3:30 A.M., when my husband got up to let Ranger out, and ended around 6:30 A.M. Our garden should not need to be watered for a while now. 🙂

How has you weather been this summer?

Dog Days Of Summer

According to almanac.com the dog days of summer run from July 3 through August 11 which is normally the hottest and most humid time of year in the northern hemisphere. Around here every day is a dog day. Just ask Ranger and Trooper. But, yes, the HEAT IS ON and it is accompanied by a dry spell so keeping the gardens watered has been the main focus for the past week or so. If you are curious about how we manage that on our off-grid farm you can check out our off-grid irrigation system here.

In the mean time I put together a collection of pictures that I’ve taken over about the past few weeks to share with you.

This is how Ranger cools off on these hot days. (Did you know beagles can swim?)

and Trooper enjoys laying on the beach after a swim in the pond.

The grandbabies love the water as much as the dogs do.

Dragonflies are yet another creature that appreciate the pond.

This one is drinking water from the sand. Check out the honey bee (on the left) that photo bombed this shot. She too was coming to the beach for a drink of water.

This beauty hung out with us on the beach, for a couple of hour yesterday evening, fluttering about and pausing now and then to rest or perhaps get a sip of water.

One last pond picture because we can never have too much cuteness. LOL.

Speaking of cuteness, here is a double dose – twins.

The lavender is gorgeous this year and the bees and butterflies are all over it.

We have transitioned from strawberry season to blueberry season. On the same day that my husband, and (daughter) Kara, picked the last of the strawberries, I took (daughter) Tina, and Jackson and Addy into the blueberry patch to pick the first ripe berries. While Kara took her 3/4 of a basket of strawberries home. Addy couldn’t wait, so she ate all of the blueberries we picked while they were still at the farm.

Start them off young – that’s my motto. They posed for a group photo then dad took Jackson and Addy, one at a time, for a ride on the tractor.

The garden is flourishing. I have harvested basil and calendula flowers twice so far.

We have green tomatoes, peppers starting to develop, blossoms on the eggplant,

blossoms on the green beans and the corn is knee high.

We cut garlic scapes (check out this post to learn more about scapes) about two weeks ago and will be digging garlic soon.

It seems that every summer our back field is dominated by different plants. This year it is full of clover and birdsfoot trefoil and I think it is just gorgeous. It’s also great bee food.

I’ll leave you with one last photo of this pair who stopped by our deck for a short visit last week. They were kind enough to stay so I could get a photo then they hurried on their way.

Thanks for visiting and remember – stay hydrated, breathe deep and stay well.

Are you having a heat wave?

To Save The Bees Part II (Revised)

IMG_5368In the origin Part II of this series, which was written in 2016, I wrote about planting 4 Basswood trees with the intention that they would grow and the blossoms would provide food for the bees. Despite our best efforts the trees did not do well and to date only two of the trees are struggling to survive.

I first thought I would just skip Part II and repost Part III in the series. Instead I decided to share my thoughts on a subject has been identified as contributing to the decline in bees/pollinators.

You have probably heard that insecticides, more specifically neonicotinoids, are thought to be partly to blame for the decline in bee/pollinator populations. It would the stand to reason that if our goal is to help save the bees then we should try to avoid use of these chemicals.

Repel Bugs Instead Of Poison Them

Here are a couple of ways to do that. The first is companion planting – that means to plant different types of plants together that support each other’s health and well being. This companion planting guide provides a chart that includes what plants will repel specific insect away from other plants which are susceptible.

The second is this homemade garden bug spray. Like companion planting this spray acts to repel insects rather than kill them. In the past we have tried various recipes for bug sprays – some work some don’t. Last year when I saw this recipe on 5 Acres and A Dream , a homesteading blog that I follow, I decided to try it. Two things that inspired me to try this recipe were first that it was easy to make with simple ingredients – mint, garlic, cayenne and a few drops of biosafe dish soap (see link for complete recipe). The second was Leigh’s (author of 5 Acres and A Dream) testimony that it worked for her.  I am not sure of all the bugs that it is effective against but in our experience it worked well against aphids and some other, unidentified, bugs. Leigh says it saved her cabbage and basil plants from whatever was eating them.

Know What You Are Buying

The other thing regarding insecticides that I wanted to bring to your attention, for those who might be purchasing plants from a greenhouse or garden center, is that the plants may have already been treated with neonicotinoids. Since it is not required that treated plants be labeled as such, it is best to ask if they have. While I generally promote shopping local and supporting small businesses, it is probably worth mentioning that two large retailers in the USA, Home Depot and Lowe’s, had planned to stop selling treated plants by 2018-2019. According to this article Home Depot seems to have largely followed through with their plan. (I have not yet been able to find evidence that Lowe’s has done so.)

Of course there is always the option of starting your own plants from seed rather than buying plants and that is what we plan to do more of this year.

Have you ever done companion planting? Do you have any tried and true methods for repelling insects?

Thanks for reading and be on the look out for Part III of this series (Planting For Bees).

 

 

 

Wrapping Up Summer

It’s hard to believe that autumn is here. I just wanted to hold on to summer – perhaps indefinitely. Since it is humanly impossible to stop time, the best I can do is hold onto and treasure the memories that Summer 2019 gifted me.  I have decided to place some of these precious memories in this post where, like keepsakes in a trinket box, they will be safely stored and I can return to them whenever I like.  I will also share them with you.

At The Farm 

In early August I used my hours at the farm for picking blueberries, watering plants, and mostly weeding the prayer garden (this is the time of year that weeds really start to take over if they are not kept in check). IMG_5686 (2)

I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that the prayer garden was in full bloom. My husband said he wanted to correct that statement but didn’t. He is right of course – by design the prayer garden is in continuous bloom, from early spring, when the daffodils appear, until late fall, or at least until we get the first frost of the season there is always something blossoming.

By mid August my chore list had changed. We had some decent rain so we didn’t have to do much watering. We began picking tomatoes and peppers and I began cleaning our 2019 garlic crop.

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For the past four weeks or so the focus has been on harvesting our garden and either cooking and eating or preserving the harvest. While most of the tomatoes have been frozen so far, I did manage to get 15 quarts of tomato sauce canned. We have been enjoying fresh red skin potatoes (boiled or made into potato salad), Swiss chard (sautéed with garlic, cooked into an omelet or added to a cream cheese stuffed chicken breast), baked butter nut squash, tomatoes (fresh on the side, on a sandwich, or cooked into homemade pasta sauce) and stuffed green peppers. I also cut up three small cabbages and started the process of turning them into sauerkraut. This is the time of year that all of the work pays off.

The Bees

Busy, busy, busy.

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We have eight healthy hives right now and our son-in-laws hive is thriving as well.

 

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We have harvested honey three times this summer from three different hives. Each harvest yielded approximately 30 lbs. of honey. After we harvest the honey and wax from the frames my husband sets the frames back out for the bees to finish cleaning them up. The picture above shows the bees completing this task.

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A few weeks ago one of the hives swarmed. My husband captured the swarm and put it in an empty hive. He then placed a feeder with honey in it on top. The next day the bees had left that hive. We are not sure why they weren’t happy there but they did fill up on the honey before leaving.

The Chickens

The eight Jersey Giants that were cute little chicks this spring are now full grown hens. They began laying in eggs in August and will hopefully keep us in fresh eggs through the winter months.IMG_5650

Soap Making

Normally I don’t make a lot of soap during the summer months but I found I was out of a few varieties. I decided to have some fun with it.

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My sister had given me some silicone mini molds so I made a few small bars using them. I can see making holiday themed sample soaps or using teddy bears or duckies as favors for a baby shower. They would however need to be clearly labeled  “Don’t Eat It!” as I would want someone thinking they were white chocolate.

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I have also been practicing using my soap stamp and getting better at it. It’s really a matter of stamping the soap when it is still just a little soft.

Family and Fun

In early August we planned a family picnic at the farm. Not all of the girls could make it but Tina and Ken brought our grandkids and Kara also came out. After we ate, our three year old grandson, Jackson, went fishing with his dad and grandpa and caught his first fish. I didn’t get any pictures of this because Tina and Kara and I had taken (granddaughter) Addy to pick blueberries.

Not only did Addy enjoy picking the berries she enjoyed eating them as well. The cutest part was that each time Addy, who is learning to talk, picked a berry she would say appo (apple). The first time she said it we thought it was so cute we laughed before telling her “berry”.  So after that each time she picked a berry she would say “appo” and laugh then when we told her berry she would say “ber-ry”. Her laugh was so contagious that we were all laughing each time she said “appo”.

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In August my husband and I went plant shopping. Normally I don’t like shopping. The exceptions are going to a greenhouse or nursey and shopping for yarn or other craft supplies. Each spring we usually go to a local green house and pick up a least a few plants for the year but it’s quite easy for me to get carried away and buy way more plants than I need.

You may remember from this post that my husband was working at a greenhouse this spring and was able to bring home many plants that would have otherwise ended up in the dumpster. With all the free flowers we had there was no need to go plant shopping…until August. While working the landscaping job that he started in July my husband had to make a trip to a nursery where they purchased anise hyssop plants that would be planted at one of the jobsites. “They had pretty purple flowers and the bees were all over them,” he said as he told me about the plants. I knew this herb had some medicinal  properties and if the bees like it then we should definitely plants some.

I did a little homework and found that anise hyssop is generally a plant the deer avoid because of it’s strong fragrance. This sounded like the perfect addition to our prayer garden.

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We purchased two large plants that were in full bloom and two smaller (less expensive) plants that should continue to grow each year until they are about a foot wide. I understand that these plants also drop seeds each year that will readily sprout into new plants. These plants are still blooming more than a month after we planted them and I saw bees foraging in them yesterday. 🙂

As we were walking through the green house I noticed a table full of flowers that I was not familiar with. They had bright orange and yellow flowers. They were marked $5 each. After asking an employee if the deer would eat them and being assured that it was not likely, I picked out two yellow and one orange. (There I go getting carried away.) The plant is called lantana. It wasn’t until we got them home that we realized that they are an annual so will not be coming back next year. 😦

We took a Sunday off in August to visit the Armada Fair and watch the tractor pulls.

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My husband and I wore our matching tractor pull t-shirts so my daughter snapped a photo of us. We were joined by daughters Kara and Lindell and Lindell’s boyfriend Brysen.  We arrived early enough to walk through the animal barns and view the exhibits before the tractor pulls began. I’m not sure which is cuter baby goats or baby cows. I love seeing them both.

We also filled up on lots of expensive fair food. I wonder which was higher the calorie count or the price.

For those of you who, like Brysen, have never seen a tractor pull, let me sum it up. Basically tractor pulling is a competition to see who’s tractor can pull a weighted sled the farthest. If you would like a little more information see this article.

IMG_5576This tractor, named Cruel Intentions, is owned by the Capozzo family. They also own and operate the excavating company that dug our pond. This is the tractor we were rooting for that day and they did take first place in their class.

 

After the tractors were finished they brought in a couple of semi’s that did an exhibition pull.

In the photo below I was trying to get a shot of the score board that electronically records each tractor’s speed and the distance they pull but my aim was a little high.

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After viewing this photo I did spot something I hadn’t noticed before. The street signs to the right of the score board mark the intersection that leads to the adult beverage tent. If you can’t make out the signs they say “Good RD” and ” Beers LN”. That made me chuckle.

The beverage tent was the other place we visited at the fair and while I mostly stuck with non alcoholic beverages that day I did end up drinking a glass of hard cider when Lindell ended up with an extra one.

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Lindell, Me, Kara

Even though autumn has arrived, and the temperatures have been slowly cooling, we are forecast to have at least one more of summer-like day today and I will happily take all that we can get.

Have you ever seen tractor pulls?

What is your favorite memory of this summer?