When the ground thawed in early spring, although it was still too cold to begin planting Caleb rototilled the garden plot for me. Temperatures dropped and it was still snowing in April; by the time it warmed up the soil was hard and needed tilled again. In mid May I was able to start planting beets and carrots and cabbage and broccoli plants from Bloomers Greenhouse. A friend gave me over a dozen hot banana pepper and Roma tomato plants. I nursed them on the porch until the threat of a frost was over and planted six tomato plants in the hot house, along with cantelope seeds and green peppers plants. I planted the remaining tomato plants and banana pepper plants in the outdoor garden. Cliff hooked up a watering system in the hoop house that is working great. It sure beats carrying water.
My hopes for a good garden this year were dashed when the asparagus didn’t produce. After the spears poked through the soil, they turned brown and died. I assumed it was because they didn’t get enough rain. I let them grow into the tall ferns that were brown and laced with cobwebs. A couple from State College stopped on their way to Sugar Grove to buy some goat milk soap and commented on my nice garden. I gave them a short tour around the property. When we passed the asparagus bed, in a strong German accent, the woman informed me “You have the asparagus beetle too. I hear Epsom Salts and mushroom compost are good for the plants.” I never heard of such a pest, but thanked her for the information. I cut all the plants back and after reading about the beetle, I began going out every night and dropping the little black bug with white spots and red antennae into warm soapy water. The first few nights, there were hundreds of them, but now they’ve dwindled to only a few, and the plants came back green and healthy. Cliff brought home a load of mushroom compost, and I fertilized the plants with Epsom Salt. Hopefully, next Spring we will be enjoying fresh green asparagus with Hollandaise sauce.
Despite not having much rain this year the garden is producing abundantly. I had a bumper crop of strawberries. Caleb weeded the patch earlier in the spring, but the plants were a tangled mess. I vowed to myself that I would keep them in neat rows. After all the berries were picked, I went through and weeded the patch of overgrown plants leaving about two dozen plants with plenty of space around each one. I put down newspaper and goat manure for mulch to keep the weeds down. It’s been over a month, and I’ve been consistent about removing the runners and pulling stray weeds that pop up.
I planted a few rows of string beans, but the cat got in the garden and dug up almost all of the seeds before they germinated. Cliff and Caleb put up a chicken wire fence about two feet high around the bottom of the garden and now the beans are producing. Despite a gliche with the garlic (Cliff planted it upside down), we pulled some nice bulbs that are drying in the shed. I’ve been giving away zuchinni and yellow summer squash by the dozens. And I’ve found some new recipes that are pretty tasty. When I was at the Dollar Store, I picked up a gadget to make zuchinni noodles. I made them last night for supper, and Cliff loved them and even asked how I made them. I dropped the noodles in boiling water for a few minutes, drained them and then added butter and salt and pepper.
Caleb brought home about a dozen moon flowers from his friend that lives near Chautauqua. I planted the seedlings behind the acorn squash, and they have grown to about four feet tall. The first white flower, the sized of a softball blossomed on the evening of July’s full moon, and now they are popping up all over the place. I also planted some petunias in white and green bucket looking containers that hang from the gray wood fence that surrounds the garden. In the past, I never had much luck with flowers, and now I realize growing beautiful flowers has nothing to do with luck, but with keeping them watered and picking off the dead blossoms. I’m learning.
Today I pulled up some lettuce plants that bolted and planted spinach seed in the vacant row. I watered the seeds thinking it wasn’t going to rain, but a nice steady rain is falling to the tune of distant rumbles of thunder. I hope the rain last for more than a few hours. The beets are round and plump and will need to be canned soon. Our neighbors, Shirley and Paul Oldland, planted beets also. We also have three rows of carrots planted in their field (they have much more space than we do). Hopefully, over the weekend I’ll pull the beets and thin the carrots. It will be time to bring up canning jars from the fruit cellar to can pickled beets.
A few bean plants that survived the cat digging them up and producing flat Italian beans that are just delicious steamed and drizzled with butter. Last week we dug up the new red potatoes and are waiting for the rest of the vines to die off so we can dig them up, before a chicken on the loose devours them. For some reason, she’s a free spirit and refuses to stay in the pen and started digging up the potatoes. She not only likes pecking at the potatoes but eats the bugs, for which I am grateful. Potato bugs are clay red and mushy with legs that are visible to the naked eye. Today Cliff covered the plants with a layer of goat compost and a ladder to keep her out.
I made a Mock Apple Pie with yellow summer squash. It turned out great except I should have followed the directions and peeled it, wanting to keep in as many nutrients as possible. My brain kept telling me it was squash even though it tasted like apple pie. Cliff loved it. I'm glad because it might be the only "apple" pie he gets this year due to an early frost that killed the apple blossoms. The recipe calls for eight cups of sliced squash, making it a good way to use up the abundance of squash we have this year. Here is the recipe: http://www.makelifetasteful.com/mock-apple-pie/ Thankfully the blueberries didn't get bit by the late frost. I covered the bushes with plastic to get our share before the birds and have been turning out some delicious pies that don't stay on the counter for more than a day or two.
July 31, 2016
Yesterday we had a nice rain, although we could use about a week of rain. The grass is brown, and the ground is dry. The tomato plants are laden with green tomatoes that I hope ripen soon. The first rows of cilantro are beginning to go to seed, so I’ll be planting more this week. Cilantro is a heavy metal detoxifying plant that people either love or hate. I happen to love it. Some of my favorite recipes are black bean salad and an avocado tomatoe salad tossed in a lime vinegarette on top of a bed of argula. I plant the parsley and basil outside of the garden, near the rhubarb bed, that bunnies seem to steer clear of.