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Raised in a Barn…

Day-to-Day Life of a Country Mama

Garden Update

We are looking pretty good in most of the garden. The green beans are about to put out their runners up the post. The sunflowers, corn and squash are coming right along too. I even have basil and more green beans sprouting up from my second planting.

I bought a new addition that I hope does well: two watermelon plants (above is one). They are called a bush sugar baby. They don’t sprawl out like a normal watermelon plant. I haven’t grown watermelon since I was a kid in 4-H so I’m really excited.

I haven’t been able to get anything to sprout in my tanks. These guys are so thick, I think they may be munching the seeds before they sprout. I know they usually eat decomposing wood, but it’s the only possibility I can find. I’m looking into natural methods of removal. I may have to just let the tanks rest and the bugs disperse before I can use them. I definitely will pay closer attention to bugs in my materials next time.

I hope y’all’s gardens are coming along too. We got a nice rain yesterday so at least I won’t have to water.

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Birds of the Season

We have had so many birds gracing our yard this year even with our bird-hating blue heeler. We have our usual pair of blue birds nesting in our fence post. When I peeked in a couple weeks back, they had 4 beautiful eggs. I haven’t heard chirps of the babys yet, but I imagine it won’t be long. 

Our usual hummingbirds are back and seem to have spread the word. I have three feeders up. Last night, I think we had to have 10 or 12 buzzing from the Rose of Sharon bush to the feeders. As much as they frequent that bush, I sometimes wonder if any nest in it. It’s so big it would be hard to know! And it could probably nest several pairs at least. I may have to read up on their nesting habits this week…

We had three oriels visit us this year for the first time. As luck would have it, I had some fruit that I needed to toss so I put it out for them instead of composting it. They cleaned it right up! Two other yard visitors besides our standard sparrows have been goldfinches and indigo buntings. I hadn’t noticed goldfinches before. When I was talking to Papa, he said they are fans of dandelion seeds. Given the number we have, it’s no wonder they have taken notice of us. 

I hope you are all enjoying your local birds. It’s always nice to have them around. Even as I write this before daybreak, I’m enjoying listening to two whipperwills singing in the bottom. What a great season. 

Sourdough Start-over 

I ended up tossing my starter I tried to make last week. By Friday, it had a dried out layer on top. I think the kitchen was too cool for continual growth. And I know I forgot to stir it Thursday. This week, temperatures will be considerably warmer so I am trying again. Hopefully next week, I will have a more positive update on it than this one was!

Sourdough Starter 

I decided to finally try making sourdough bread so yesterday I stirred up my starter. I am using directions for it that I found in my grandma’s recipes. I mixed 2 cups warm water, 2 cups flour and one package of yeast. The directions say to leave it in a very warm place for 4 – 7 days and stir the mix once a day until it is bubbly and smells like yeast. Our kitchen isn’t exceptionally warm, but it is the warmest place in the house. As you can see in the photo, the mix is already looking good. I’m really looking forward to making bread for next week!

Shelling out Protection 

If you’re having trouble with slugs and snails, don’t jump for the chemicals. There are a some simple tricks to try. Here are the two that I know about. 

The first came from Mama and her strawberry patch. Slugs were eating her strawberries. She made traps for them by filling shallow dishes (I think I remember them being the saucers from an old dish set) with beer. The smell of the beer attracted the slugs, then they would crawl in and drown. 

The one I’ve heard about more recently comes from one of the gardeners I talk with at the farmers market. He puts a line of crushed egg shells around the border of his garden to deter snails and slugs. Both don’t like crawling over the jagged edges, which cut them up if they do. The plus side to this method is that rain doesn’t easily effect the shells. 

I hope theses ideas help you in your organic pest control. As a side note, I inherited a whole book on the subject from my grandma. I’m looking forward to reading it and passing along information as I try things. 

Garden Progress

Between crazy weather and crazy schedules, I’ve been attacking the garden whenever possible. I have made some good progress. I put in three more posts to grow green beans on. I’ve planted seed for the green beans, three varieties of squash, cilantro, and basil. I also cleared more grass for expanding the garden. 

I transplanted three varieties of tomatoes and my parsley. Unfortunately, I had a lapse in memory on how long it had been since I moved my starts back and forth to acclimate. Over half of my tomato starts went into shock over it. Luckily I didn’t put them all out at once. Needless to say, I will spend the weekend and beginning of next week getting the rest of my starts acclimated. 

Despite the cold snaps, my Titan sunflowers are looking good. My broccoli is still puttering along. I even noticed a few corn sprouts were up yesterday when I was watering. I’m very excited that the garden is coming along pretty well. Maybe we are finally past the weird cold snaps and snows so everything can get to growing. 

Whirlwind Month

I’m so sorry I haven’t been posting much. There has been so much going on that I’m just trying to keep up! We have been looking after the farm while my folks have been traveling and dog-sitting while my brother’s family takes a trip. They should all return tomorrow just in time for the market season to start. One market opens this week and the second opens next week. 

Needless to say all this plus the usual and revamping the basement (not to mention Travis’s work restoring his mustang) has kept us extremely busy. Some unexpected cold weather did cut down on the work I could do in the garden. I put off transplanting or planting anything, but I’m hoping towards the end of the week I can do some more. 

One of our weird cold weather spells involved a snow early Saturday morning. In defiance of this, the sunflowers I’d planted are coming up. A couple had sprouted before the snow and are just fine. In fact, when I checked them yesterday, most of them are up. Hopefully, it stays warm enough from here on for the garden. 

Repellent Plants

It’s important to learn from previous years when planning your garden. I have been making adjustments for this year and I’m already taking notes for things to do differently next year. 

One such note is for additional seed varieties, but not for crops, for repellent plants. Used to, I thought that marigolds were the only one. I discovered in my reading this winter there are many varieties of repellent plants. Marigolds are a good all-purpose repellent, but for some pests you need a more specific plant. 

Following are two photos of a chart of repellent plants from the Garden Way Publishing Bulletin Gardening AnswersIt’s a pretty impressive list! 

Some plants do their protection work as decoys. I have heard that certain beetles which feed on vegetable plants prefer munching on marigolds when given the option. So marigolds can provide twofold protection. 

I have not had time yet to do farther research into these varieties, but I’m excited by the prospects. I hope to do some investigating and learning where I can get seed or at least plants for what I need. Strong plants are the best pest defense, but it couldn’t hurt to have a repellent partner for them!

Dandelion Jelly 

I ended up making two batches of dandelion jelly (the photo is of the first batch). 

I didn’t have as many petals as the recipe called for so I let mine steep a little longer than overnight. I did this to make the tea stronger and make up for the smaller amount. I added a little more water to bring the level up to the three cups required for the recipe. (This was, of course, after I had strained the flower petals to yeild the tea.) 

I heated the tea, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and a box of pectin to a boil. Then I added 4 and a half cups sugar and returned it to a boil for 1-2 minutes. I had to skim some foam, which didn’t go the smoothest. Then I filled jelly jars to half an inch, sealed them and processed them in my hot water bath for a little more than the 10 minutes called for. (My stove and I don’t always get along with maintaining the temperature I want it to.)

Anyway, despite not looking as pretty as it could have due to my sloppy job skimming the foam, it tastes amazing. It’s a lot of work preparing the petals, but is totally worth it!

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