Friday, August 15, 2014

August 2014 Update

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

I apologize for not gettting more posts out there! I had all these plans for a fall garden and succession planting, but alas, baby body does not want to cooperate! But I have been doing a lot of cooking in preparation for baby, so I will share some of that with you later this month (I hope!). 

Some parts of my garden are winding down while others are thriving. My root veggies are pretty well done. I had planned on planting more for a fall crop, but I have missed the window for that. Granted, I could still get some sown to see if they would make it and/or create a dome to protect them from mild frost, but that's probably not going to happen this year. I do have a handful beets and carrots that are very small, so I am leaving them in the ground to see if they will get bigger.


My tomatoes and basil are doing great!


The basil has all gone to seed in the summer heat, so I am saving the seeds for next year. Little Buddy loves to eat the basil leaves out of the garden. I can't get him to eat anything green at dinnertime, so I'll take what I can get!


Here is a Brandywine tomato that started to split from too much water. We went through a long dry period, then had several thunderstorms over a couple weeks that saturated the ground. I picked this one so it wouldn't split any further. I'm surprised it was the only one. If you leave the green tops on your tomatoes, they'll ripen indoors a bit faster and taste sweeter (in my opinion anyway.)


I like to leave my tomatoes on the vine until they are completely ripe, but I found a couple of almost ripe tomatoes laying on the ground with teeth marks in them, so I have been picking them before whatever vermin it is gets hold of them. They still taste so much better than store-bought!


I don't think I'll see any pumpkins or melons this year. I just got them in the ground too late. Darn morning sickness anyway! But I am going to let them go until the fall frost kills them and we'll see if any make it! As of right now, I am still seeing only the long-stemmed male flowers. The female flowers form right against the vine that make the fruit.


My sad, sad straw bale garden. I got one tomato from these teeny things. Still better than nothing! Next time I will be sure to prepare my bale as recommended!


I think my little Tiny Tim tomato plant is almost done. It hasn't flowered in a while and has only a couple tomatoes on it. To be honest, I didn't like these tomatoes as well as other varieties, but I still think this plant has value as it produces so many fruits in such a small space. I am impressed! Being in a pot, it needs water almost every day, which doesn't happen around here very well. Oops! But, it all works out b/c I got to see how hearty this little plant is too! Though some leaves and branches wilted, the plant as a whole has survived. I am guessing if well-maintained, this plant would produce 2-3 times more tomatoes. A household that had a handful of these plants may even get enough for canning!


Little Buddy's zinnias are still blooming away! This is the first year I have planted flowers that didn't directly have a use in my garden, like marigolds or nasturtiums. I tend to be function first, pretty later, if I have time. Well, I am learning that some pretty things don't take a whole lot of time and space. Besides, the more flowers you have, the more pollinators you attract. I have seen very few honey bees, mostly wasps and bumble bees. I don't like this one bit! Folks, that is a scary thing! Even with all the reports and warnings people still continue to use pesticides that kill our pollinators. I hear the excuse that they wouldn't have a garden otherwise because the bugs eat it all. Well, let's see how much of a garden grows when there are no pollinators left. There are so many natural ways to deter and kill pests that won't kill the important bugs. That's why my tomato plants are completely surrounded by basil. I have not seen a single "bad bug" on my plants since the basil really got going. There are a ton of resources out there that will tell you what types of herbs and flowers will deter what type of pests. It just takes a little extra planning and some knowledge. When push comes to shove, you've got the option of picking the pests off by hand. Not fun and very tedious, but still better than poison. Okay, stepping off my soapbox and moving on...


My square foot garden is still going strong. These are Jaune Flamme tomatoes and wow are they sweet! They are bright yellow and orange tomatoes that are sugary sweet. First time I have grown them and I will continue to do so. Their production isn't as high as other varieties and the fruits are smaller, so they won't be my main tomato crop, but I will keep a couple around every year for snacking.


I did get a bit of succession planting done. I have corn and different squashes in place of all the cooler weather crops I harvested earlier this summer. The corn is stunted though, b/c I got it in the ground too late. I started some seeds and then got too sick to get them in the ground in time.


But the squash seems to be doing well. Again, not sure I'll get any fruit out of it, but the vines and flowers are beautiful. Plus I did find one teeny little bee doing her job.


One of my un-kept, poorly growing volunteer tomato plants. This one is producing fruit like crazy though! It has been a fun experiment to see what happens when I let nature do all the work without any intervention from me. I get a couple teeny tomatoes off this plant almost every day. Pretty impressive really.


My summer compost pile is being transferred for the winter. There are many ways to compost depending on the space you have and what you prefer. This is a simple wrap-around compost that I got for free from my  local county extension office as an incentive for their new recycling program last year. Though I like my pallets better for long-term use, I like using this for the summer as it will fill up fast. Normally I would wait to transfer this to the pallet compost in early fall, but I never know how I'll feel from day to day, so I work on it when I feel up to it. I still have at least one more day to work on this as I can't do it all at once anymore. Turning compost takes a lot of effort even without carrying a growing baby!


The pile with the lid is my compost pile from last winter and spring. It would have been ready to use by now, but I was not diligent in turning it. Also I had some items that I did not chop up first so they took longer to break down, like cardboard and our huge, sturdy sycamore leaves. I could use it this fall, but I will keep it there to use next year since the fall garden has fallen by the way-side.


I harvested the last of my tired potatoes. I was surprised at the results. Out of the potato tower, tires, and milk-crates, I got the biggest yield from the milk crates! Fine by me as that was the easiest method and not quite as much of an eye-sore as the tires are. (Sorry neighbors!) So I think I will get rid of these. But, not to discourage recycling by any means! I think if the middles of the tires were cut out, the results would be better. Also, the tires could be spray-painted to make them more attractive. It is all more than I am able to do this year, though. You can only do what you can do, know what I mean? Also, I put the tarp out to catch the dirt from the potato towers. Though you don't want to reuse potato and tomato dirt for the same thing next year, I will use this dirt elsewhere. Seems I always need more soil!


The in-ground corn is all done for the year. Most of the ears were stunted again since I didn't get out to fertilize and let the weeds take over. Corn is a heavy feeder! It's not recommended for small gardens since it takes up so much space for such little production (only about 2 ears per stalk), but I enjoy watching it grow. Plus I can still use the underdeveloped ears for corn-cob jelly. Though this year, many of those went to the chickens. How they loved it!


The supposed acorn squash turned out to be an acorn-zucchini hybrid. I can't complain since I got the plants for free and it's also a lesson learned to ask more questions and/or not be such a cheapskate. This is also a lesson in saving seeds. Some you can, some you can't. Squashes are notorious for cross-breeding with pollination. So unless you only plant one type of squash or create a system to where the pollinators can't get from one type to another, you will end up with cross-bred squash that is usually sub-par. If you start out with pure seeds, that year's crop will be ok, you just can't save the seeds for next year or you will get mutants. We are still eating the acorn-zucchini mutants, but they don't have very good flavor. I shred them and hide them in other dishes so we are still getting the nutrients from them. Also, the chickens absolutely love it, so that helps. 


Speaking of chickens, my RIR (Rhode Island Red) girls are getting bigger and bigger! They are 16 weeks old so I will start looking for eggs at the end of the month! Though they may not produce until next spring as I have read many chickens stop laying over the winter unless you give them supplemental light to prolong their days. I won't do that this year since they are so young.


These babies are just 10 weeks old, so I certainly won't expect eggs out of them until the spring. Although, I suspect I have more than one rooster in this bunch and if that's the case, we may be having garden-fresh chicken dinner October or November.


My little garden munchkins. I can't tell you how many pictures I took to get this one, but it was a lot! They never stop moving! If you look close you will see they are covered in dirt! How I love these little boys!


Though I am tired and some days downright overwhelmed, I look forward to having another little one underfoot. He or she will be newborn when I start planting for next year. A homesteader from day one! I take comfort and, truth be told, some pride in the fact that growing up as homesteaders is the norm for these little ones. They don't know any different b/c it was been this way from the start for them. This really keeps me going on the days where I am just done with it all. They have so much fun and take so much pride when they can help. These are skills I hope they refine and pass down through the generations. I have many many failures (I try to call them learning experiences) but I hope they see them and learn from them as well.

I hope you all are doing well in your homesteading adventures! As always, feel free to share your own experiences, I'd love to hear from you!

Jen Hen

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