Where Did Summer Go?

140813 Rainbow LomoI woke up this morning, before daylight, to the sound of rain on the roof.  My first thought was  “Are you kidding me?!?” I went back to a restless sleep and finally got up to a rather cold house.  When I looked at the thermometer it was 48 degrees.

I picked up a brochure for the Heath Fair last weekend at the local farm and garden center and the woman at the check out said, “Yup, next weekend, marks the end of summer”.

To me this has been the summer that wasn’t.  We had a handful of days in the 80’s, very few days in the 90’s.  All of the fans have been taken out of the windows so I can close them at night against most of the cold air. The window in my bedroom will stay open until November – in part to keep the fresh air coming in but also so I can hear the owls and other critters at night.  The garden has been so so.  I look back at records of past years and realize that everything is 2 weeks or so behind except for the garlic.  It will be a miracle if I get beans at all – they love the sun and heat.

This past Wednesday was a complete washout (and the only day I really had to work in the gardens).  It was warmer but pouring and brought in the cooler weather.  There was a rainbow to mark the end of the day and the rain.  It also showed me where my pot of gold resides. There is such beauty here. Every day gives another opportunity to see it and share.

Today the chicken fence goes up and they will venture outdoors for the first time in their lives.  Although I have so much to do with the summer ending I will move my lawn chair to a good vantage point with camera in hand and watch the chicks take in the fresh air and sunshine.  What better way to spend part of a late summer day.


Garden Bounty

140805 Iris

My vegetable garden has been somewhat of a disappointment this year.  The tomatoes have blight, the cucumbers are slow, everything is 2 to 3 weeks behind because of the cool temperatures and copious amounts of rain we have had.  The things that are doing great are my perennials.

The cooler temperatures have allowed me to begin a long, long overdue garden rehab project.  Yes, new gardens are going in but one of the reasons for the new gardens is that there are so many things that need division in the old gardens.  I have to say that it has taken me by surprise.  One iris, planted about 5 years ago, yielded a garden full of new ones.

I’m never one to complain about free plants mind you but this is a little concerning to me when I look at what I have to divide.  I dug up three plants yesterday, an iris, a balloon flower and a Stella di Oro lily.  The iris yielded about 30 usable rhizomes, the balloon flower maybe three separate plants and the lily went from one larger clump to six good size plants.

The distressing part for me is the fact that I haven’t even begun to dig up the garden that needs to be redone.  I’m not one to throw plants over the bank but foresee that happening.  How many haphazard gardens are there from plants being pitched when the gardens are redone? (You gardeners out there know what I’m talking about).  I have two of those right here.  Daffodils come up all over the place now where they were thrown purposefully or accidentally over the years. Hostas, myrtle, daylilies, even Jack in the Pulpits.  I prefer to refer to those haphazard messes as reserves for the day when I need them.

Yesterday I gave away half of the iris to a friend that was here in the morning.  I didn’t give him a choice – I told him he could pitch them over his bank, I would never know.

This is how friendship gardens happen. Someone is dividing up their plants in order to have them be healthier and bloom better, they are overwhelmed with the number of unexpected plants they end up with, they force them onto their friends and family.  That gives me a whole new perspective on a couple of the gardens that I always thought of as “friendship” gardens.  Maybe all those special plants are really things that were being cast off and rescued by my mother, similar to things that have happened to me recently.

Regardless of how the plants have ended up in my garden I love most of them.  Even if some were cast off from another’s garden renovation I look upon them fondly.  Some of them have been here since 1968 when we moved here and my mother began gardening in earnest.  To identify certain specimens with certain people in an aspect that I love.

So as the garden renovation continues I will be giving away a lot of things and hope that some years from now someone will say,  “Oh I got that from Joanne in 2014 during the big dig”.  For that reason I’m careful what I give away and make sure it is weed free.  The last thing I want is someone cursing me out for some invasive species that I introduced to their garden.  Although at this point irises are feeling a little invasive.

140805 Stellas

Fall is Here

130915 (1)See that weed infested mess in the foreground – it’s gone!  We pulled up the stakes and mowed it with the lawnmower.  Yes, that is how weedy it was.  As a matter of fact it looks like the rest of the lawn.  I’m sad that garden season is over but I’m not sad to see that garden gone.   Bill started building a fire pit in the middle of it for the upcoming Harvest party.  I figure if nothing else the center of the garden will be weed free next year.

End of Year Garden Assessment

130915 (1)I took this photograph yesterday morning overlooking the best garden of weeds I have ever had.  I have had a vegetable garden for a good ten years now and this has to be the worst one yet. Fortunately the rest of the view is pretty nice.

For some reason in my mind it is the first week of October (I even tore off the September page of the calendar on Saturday and didn’t realize it until Sunday).  It may be the weeds or my confused state but I decided to dismantle most of the garden this past weekend.  I had Cherry Belle radishes the size of beets – over 5 feet tall and gone to seed (which was interesting since I had never done that).  I had a total of two beets the size of radishes.

130915 (2)I really began by pulling up all of my popcorn.  It had been raining the past week a good deal and I thought I should probably get it out of the ground.  I laid all of the stalks in my garden wagon thinking I would keep the ears on the stalks to dry further.  This was Tom Thumb popcorn, an heirloom variety developed in New Hampshire.  It was bred to do well in a short season.  It only grows 3 feet tall and is quite cute.  It did well.  Sunday I decided to pull all of the ears off of the stocks, peel back the husks and let them dry further.  They are supposed to dry to a 14% moisture content.  I’m not sure how you’re supposed to figure that out but most people just try popping a few kernels every so often during the drying period to see when they pop.  Works for me.  Did I mention that none of these ears is more than 4 inches long?  Most are in the 3 inch category – hence the name Tom Thumb. 

130915 (3)I then pulled what carrots I had.  I had planted two varieties – the old standby Danvers and Atomic Red.  Another rather disappointing harvest.  This is all I had – a total of 6 pints when it was all said and done.  When I saw them scrubbed up in the bowl I was glad I had planted both, they look great together.  I canned them with a brown sugar glaze.  I had heard a review from my sister that this was the only way to go.  Well, when you only have 6 pints you have to make a choice,  I went with sweet.

The rest of the potatoes were dug on Saturday and left out in the sun until yesterday afternoon.  Not a particularly good year for them either.  We had a lot of rain and the earth really compacted around them.  The potatoes are delicious, the yield was just not there (that and the fact that we ate fully half of them as new potatoes).

130915 (4)Then there is the matter of tomatoes.  The vines in the garden have been brown without leaves for a couple of weeks.  The yellow cherries just kept coming – we are at a loss to understand why.  This tomato is extremely prolific.  The bonus is it takes them a long, long time to rot.  Another interesting thing is they drop off of the vine as soon as they begin to turn yellow so rather than pick them off of the plant you end up picking them off of the ground.  I was pulling the stakes up that were holding the plants and these tomatoes were everywhere.  Not being one to let good food go to waste I picked them up and canned them with 4 red tomatoes that were the only ones left.  I ended the tomato season with an additional 6 pints of beautiful golden sauce.

I planted a total of seven eggplants – they produced 4 fruit.  They were delicious but I’m not sure if it was this particular year’s weather or my growing season is just too short.  The plants are blossoming like crazy right now but I know there won’t be enough time before we have a frost.  I feel a little bad pulling them up but I’m not going to weed around them.

The asparagus looks great. The bed will be cleaned out, mulched and  some edging will be put in this fall.  The rutabagas are just okay this year, they will stay in the ground until a couple of frosts hit, then I will pull them.  They are smaller than usual.  The rest of the garden will be tilled in the next week or so (because I can’t look at the crabgrass any more).

We have scoped out a new area for the garden.  This will involve outside help for excavation and some fill but it holds the promise of being a better location long term.  We have some mature maples along the south end of where the garden presently is and that is the one tree we are loathe to cut down.  I figure the way the crabgrass grew in this year it would take about a month to turn the present garden into lawn since most of the lawn is crabgrass anyway.





Rain, Rain, Rain

130701 Crocs


This photo says it all.  I wear these crocs when I work in the garden in the summer.  They are easy to slip on, hose off.  After working yesterday I hosed them off as usual and left them on the patio to dry.  They may have dried but it started raining in the late afternoon and continued off and on through the night.  The forecast for today – rain.

I managed to get half of the garden weeded but really need to get out there again and finish before the weeds take over.

All this rain has wreaked havoc for farmers of every variety over the whole of New England this year.  It’s been one of those years where you think you have the right combo of things to plant because they have grown so well in the past only to find no matter how many times you plant the seeds the conditions won’t allow them to germinate.  I’ve planted beets twice so far this year and have had one sprout.  It’s not a matter of bad seed either.  I’ve planted two varieties, new seed.  I will plant them one more time, if they grow great, if not I wait until next year. My carrots are sparse, but the rhutabagas are fine.  The potatoes are finally going after a very slow start. They are also sprouting all over the garden – apparently I didn’t dig up everything last year.  They’ve survived tillage 3 times so I guess I will just hill them where they are.

The beans are a bit disappointing as well, they have had a tough time starting.  There will be a few more seeds planted there as well.  Although my tomatoes had a rough start they are looking pretty good at the moment.  I need to tie them up for the second time this week.  Onions and garlic are very happy.  There are blossoms on my cucumber starts but I’ve come to realize that I don’t plant enough to really put up so they will probably be eaten fresh and I will have to visit the local farmstands to make pickles. My long pie pumpkins look great, they are one of my favorite varieties and they are great keepers.

The potted flowers have never been happier.  Every summer for the past few years I’ve had to have someone water them on the days when I’m not here.  No problem this year.

One of the biggest problems that has occurred this year is with haying.  It’s has rained every day for weeks, for hay you need at least a couple of dry days (dry, not exorbitantly humid like it has been).  With the weather pattern that we’ve been in the hay has been in the field too long so the quality of the feed suffers.  I’m not sure what the answer is here.  There may be more steers going to the auction in the fall because there won’t be the hay to feed them through the winter.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Farming is such a difficult way of life.  You are dealing with the unknown on a daily basis.  Each week the weather is bad you adjust your expectations for the off season.  This is something that hasn’t changed since the dawn of agriculture but each year when it happens to me it is deeply personal.

Oh What a Beautiful Morning

130630 Morning Mist


There is nothing better than getting up just before the sun peaks over the mountains to the East.  The mist rises off of the back field and the sunlight begins to shine through it sending it’s rays to the ground.  This is the first day of our staycation here this summer.  Quiet, drinking my morning coffee in the field with the birds, once again connected with the earth and nature around me.

The dew is thick this morning and the one thing that keeps me from being relaxed is as the sun casts its light on the dew covered plants it accentuated every weed in the garden.  So after that quiet little interlude, soaking it all in, all I could think about was weeding the garden.  Sigh.

How Chester Spends His Days

130615 Chester in the brook

We have a small brook that runs the perimeter of part of the field in the back forty.  It’s been raining buckets the past week so the brook is running well through the weeds.  This is truly one of Chester’s favorite spots.  He walks the entire length of it – in the water.  There’s a small pond on one end and a culvert that goes under a dirt road on the other.  He doesn’t like the heat much so this is where you can find him on any warm sunny day.  He’ll happily play fetch if you are willing, and will play with the girlfriend next door but it’s always interspersed with a walk in the brook.  He must be part lab.


Counting Seedlings

130424 Seedlings


Our yard has 6 very large maple trees in it, all varieties.  Each spring I do battle with the seedlings that emerge from the ground.  I have a large perennial garden in that yard that is an oasis for these little saplings.  It doesn’t matter how much I rake the seeds out these are always popping up in the spring.  Right now they are the bane of my existence.

I have a bit of an OCD with counting and a few years ago I turned pulling these up into a counting thing.  Every morning when I take the dogs out I go into that garden and pull up no fewer than 25 of theses little trees.  They are only about 4″ tall and are surprisingly difficult to pull out of the ground.  Honestly it’ll probably take a couple of weeks to get them all out of the garden at that rate.  The consequences of not pulling them up now manifest themselves fully by fall when I have to go out with my shears and cut them to the ground because they’ve grown up in the center of my phlox unnoticed.

Counting my way through this garden every morning also gives me the opportunity to visit the plants that are coming up now (and the weeds).  I visit and revisit certain spots to see who made it through the winter or where they’ve moved from last season.  It’s a getting to know you thing every spring.  I guess if it wasn’t for pulling those saplings I could potentially visit an unfamiliar garden come June.