Saturday, July 16, 2016

Summer Update

I know it's been a while since I last posted. How time flies, eh? For a quick recap, our Ed turned 29, Cousin It turned 31, and Lara turned 33. Tom and I are married 41 years, and our Yellow Lab, Sandy, is a creaky 12 years old. Dad turned 86 and is doing much better since he hooked up with the VA hospital in Iron Mountain. We had a family Father's Day gathering that turned out great. Just about everybody came.

Dad and brother-in-law John

Ed and Lara

Cousin It (Sarah) and Tom
 The big news and main reason I have not blogged is that I am participating in a weight loss study that keeps me on my feet and off the computer. Honestly, by supper time I am tired! (I'm only blogging now because I took the day off from exercising.)  Since January I am down 32 pounds and half of that since I started participating in the study. I am learning a lot about exercise, nutrition, shopping and eating habits, and strategies for dealing with eating in various social settings. I am enjoying all of it and am really working hard at making lifestyle changes. I would love to lose another 30 pounds by the end of the year.

The weather and the wild critters have been my plagues this year in the gardens. I had to replant my garden boxes three times because of squirrels. One morning I woke to find a turkey hen taking a dust bath in my greens box. Every so often she would kick up dirt and then deftly stick her neck out and snatch a bite of lettuce or mustard. Sheesh! The pole beans were eaten by bugs so as a last resort I have planted some in pots in the greenhouse and hope to harvest something this Fall. The deer have eaten most of my winter squash and pumpkins over at the big garden I have by Dad's, and because of all the rain we've had the grass has overtaken that garden, as well, though I am doing my best to keep the crops visible. It's hard to work that garden properly because of my family time constraints. There are still some tomato plants, a few green beans, and my Fisher's Earliest corn (I'm keeping my fingers crossed on the corn because there is a Sandhill crane nest in the field about 10 feet from the back of Dad's barn) that survive and I need to weed by hand. I'm starting some perennial plantings in that garden and started this year with putting in about 10 black chokeberries (aronia). Only one has died.

Speaking of tomatoes, my garden box that hosted tomatoes last year sprouted a number of volunteers this year, and amazingly they are my strongest plants anywhere in the gardens! Yesterday I cut some poles and staked them all. I have to mention that the Russian tomato varieties I planted this year don't look so hot, but I will give them another chance next year before I make my mind up about growing them after that.

Garden boxes in the front yard
The garden boxes in the back yard don't look nearly as good as the ones in the front yard and I will have to take a picture of them for you. About half of those boxes are dedicated to perennials now. There is a box for blueberries, one for bush cherries, one for domesticated raspberries, and I am in the process of making another box for just herbs, both annuals and perennial, culinary and medicinal. After I harvest the garlic, I will amend all the empty boxes and replant them for a late harvest.

Forest garden path (chop and drop)
I am learning much from my forest garden experiment and continue to read as much as possible about permaculture practices. I have found that by leaving everything to grow together as they will there is much less insect damage and increased harvest. For example, bindweed left to twist and climb becomes a natural trellis for raspberries, grasses, and red currants. Dogwoods seem to favor grouping with basswood trees and elderberries. Raspberries and ferns like fruit trees. Bergamot loves spreading in the sunny grassy areas. The black and red currants are simply overflowing with berries. My mugwort decided it didn't like being next to my hazelnut bushes and has, on its own, migrated to my hugelkultur bed next to the hops I have growing on the trellis fence. The grapes seem to like being left to climb where they will. The blackberries are definitely not happy and I expect that at some point I will move them elsewhere. Horseradish and rhubarb love the hugelkultur bed, and all of the apple and plum trees seem to be happy. Even the "iffy" pear trees have settled down and are beginning to gain growth. This year I added two apricot trees. I don't expect them to survive the winter, but I thought I would give them a try anyway.

Canning season has officially started for me. I wish your gardens a heavy harvest!