Thursday, June 30, 2011

So I Thought THAT Week Was Busy

Well, my last post was after a very busy week.  That's the truth.  But here it is, July Eve, and I haven't written a post since June 13th.  How is that even possible, I wonder?  To say we have been busy would be a gross understatement.  In the two and half weeks since I last posted, we have:

1. Purchased an ancient step van from a local theatre group... yes, to use as MORE storage on the farm.
Step Van, Carpeted and with First Load
2. Moved the remainder of the "stuff" from the pond house, into the "new" step van (how is it possible that, even with my new renters purchasing the majority of the furniture in the house, and despite the fact that we'd moved most of the "stuff" out last July when we listed the house for sale, we STILL moved more than seven van loads out of the house and garage?)
Step Van, Seven van loads later.

3. Completed necessary repairs and final cleaning, and turned the house over to the renters on the 23rd. (Included moving all of the HEAVY exercise equipment from the bonus room above the garage, down into the garage!)
Everyone working out.... NOT!
4. Dealt with trespassing and vandalism at the pond house a few days before we rented it....
Joe secures boats with heavier chain
after vandals cut old one, and took the boats out.
5. Completed the chicken yard,

Chicken Yard for Nine Chickens
6. Tried to keep the weeds at bay.... (right-o!)
Weeding the Gardens
7. Tried to keep the myriad of plant pests at bay ... (another right-o!)
Joe "harvesting" Japanese Beetles....
8. Joe marked another birthday, new glasses and a trip to the oral surgeon (funsville)

Joe, Heading in see the Oral Surgeon
9. And, of course, keeping up with all of the regular stuff.  (I did take another week of vacation so I could get the pond house ready for the renters.....................was actually happy to get back to work this week so I could "relax" a little!)
Our Neighbors stopped by for a short visit...
to see the gardens...
Still, busy or not, we continue to be rewarded with fruits, vegetables, flowers and trees, which, despite the insane attacks by bugs, of the crawling, flying, hopping, and sliming varieties, have been producing sufficiently to fill my freezer before we even reach the REAL summer.  I have put up strawberries, peas, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash in the freezer, ready for meals in the months to come.  Of course we have eaten LOADS of fresh veggies and they just keep on coming.  I am having fun creating meals with the gifts from these gardens.
This evening, with more than four dozen cucumbers available for use, and needing to create a meal that would be a reasonable choice for a guy who'd just had oral surgery yesterday, and needed to be on a soft diet, I decided to experiment.  The result was delicious, and we ate it all.  I'll call it cucumber soup, but here is how I made it.

I boiled two kohlrabies, with their leaves removed, but with their "peel" still on, with one stubby carrot (my first).  While they boiled, I chopped up ten cucumbers, two cloves of garlic, and half an onion, and lightly sauteed the chopped veggies in olive oil.
When the kohlrabi and carrot had boiled about 10 minutes, I removed them from the heat, saved the golden broth, peeled the outer skin off the kohlrabies, cut them in pieces and threw EVERYTHING in the blender. I pureed it into a spring-green pulpy soup, that I then returned to the pan, added a little salt and pepper and a little chicken bouillon, and cooked the soup on a very low heat (just about warm) for about an hour and a half.

When we were ready to eat, I ladled the soup into bowls, added a heaping teaspoon of sour cream in the middle of each, and sprinkled grated mozzarella cheese over the top....  It was, in all honesty, DELICIOUS!  There were no left-overs and I have a sneaking suspicion I will be making this meal again REAL SOON!

The eggplants, bell peppers, watermelon, honeydew melon,and tomatoes, grapes, peaches, and figs are bearing fruit but which are not yet ready to eat.  The cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, green beans, roma beans, kohlrabi, carrots, strawberries and raspberries are producing right now.  The peas and spinach have completed their season.  The potatoes, onions, corn, cantaloupe, blackberries, and cauliflower have not yet started producing, though the potatoes have been flowering for a couple of weeks now.
While I'm impressed with the amount of fruit and vegetables we have already reaped this season, the MOST impressive producers are the sunflowers.  I did plant some new varieties in the gardens this year, and they are doing very well, but the volunteers, those that grew from seeds that fell from last years crop, are INCREDIBLE!  Those volunteers are about twelve feet tall.  In fact, they are so tall, I will NOT be able to see them when they bloom. This week the sunflowers have started opening, and they are beautiful!
Giant Sunflowers
My morning walks are my favorite part of the day.  I get to see all that is new in the gardens, greet the chickens with the kitchen scraps from yesterday's meal preparations, collect a bucket full of veggies, and enjoy the cool of the morning, before the sun ramps up the heat.  Still, I also love to take another walk at lunchtime, because it  is in the heat of the day that the portulaca opens and those blossoms are simply beautiful.  And after my work day is done, I enjoy heading back out to weed, and work in the gardens...we will never catch up with all of the weeding and such... heck, we still have 660 feet of fence to install, and still more plants to get into the ground... and the old farm house to complete...  and the pool to put up... and.....
Chickens, Hunting Bugs
Sunflower, Irish Grass, and Watermelon "hedge"

Very Tall Volunteer Sunflowers
 Yes, we will BE busy for a good long while, I just have a hunch!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Busy Week

I took the past week off from work.  Technically, it was "vacation" time, but I spent most of the hours helping Joe with projects around here.  However, we also enjoyed a late lunch with my son and his wife last Sunday (an early birthday lunch for my son who turned 30 this week).  It is seriously hard for me to believe it has been 30 years since I first laid eyes on my 7 lb 7 oz baby boy!
Judy, Stephen, Kristen and Joe after lunch

I also took a couple off days to drive to Rochelle, VA to visit my daughter and her husband in their new home.  I really enjoyed the drive there, as the weather was perfect.  That part of the state is very pretty and their new home is right in the heart of picturesque. Since my gardens are producing lots of veggies, I carried zucchini, yellow squash, peas and cucumbers with me to share with the kids.
Front of House and Guest House
Buildings in Back Yard
Living Room
Building in Back Yard
Neighbor's Roof-top Garden
While I was visiting with them, my daughter told me about her recent call to Verizon.  It seems she calls every month, as she monitors their high-speed Internet usage, and recognizes they are about to exceed their allowance.  This month when she made the call, it was answered by a gentleman who said, "this Christ, how can I help you?"  She thought she'd heard wrong, so she asked him to repeat his name, which he did.  So, despite her surprise at his name, she embarked on her monthly explanation of being in jeopardy of exceeding their allowable usage, and asked if there was anything that could be done.  Christ told her that he could offer her the next tier of usage for $80 per month... she was surprised by this, since every other month, the representative has told her that the cost for the next tier is $199.  She questioned Christ, explaining that she'd always been told that this level of service would cost $199.  He checked and said, "well, that IS what it says, but I always offer my customers this service for $80, and they always get it.  If you have any problem with it, just tell them Christ sold you the service for $80......"  Hahaha... I'd like to see Jenn make THAT call!
Jenn Weeding her Garden at Her Floral Studio
One of Jenn's Gardens at her Studio
Another of Jenn's Raised Bed Gardens
Jenn's New "Office" -- Her Floral Studio
It was great getting to see all of the kids... we don't get together nearly enough!  Hopefully, one day, we will have this old farmhouse renovated, and will be able to have family gatherings here.  Right now, I'm afraid, any family gatherings here would have to be camp-outs... on the other hand, we have a LOT of really nice camping sites, right on the property!

Another "big deal" happened this week.  I decided to rent the pond house to a friend who was looking for a house with five bedrooms... when she and her family came to see the house, she fell in love with it.  It was a hard decision to make, but I decided to rent the house, rather than trying to sell it in this market, where everyone wants to make a "deal" on a foreclosure.... So, July 1, my tenants will move in and I will become a landlord, for the first time in my life.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, we have been gardening, WEEDING, building fences, giving Joe a MUCH needed haircut, WEEDING, transplanting, WEEDING, building a chicken coop, working on the old farmhouse, continuing the trenching operation, mulching, WEEDING, and ENJOYING the bounty from the gardens.  I tasted my first kohlrabi today....first time I remember ever tasting it, and it was pretty good... I hope the rest of the kohlrabi garden produces... Next year I will plant a large kohlrabi patch, I think.
Chickens... in their temporary housing unit.
First Watermelon Spotted 6-10-11
Sunflowers Officially Taller than Judy
Gardens in Full Green Mode
First Kohlrabi Harvested
Some of the Day's Bounty
We already have the first watermelon on the vine.  All of the watermelon plants are volunteers from last year, and, if all volunteers produce, we will be getting pick-up truckloads...however, all we have right now are a bunch of healthy watermelon plants and a single watermelon.  Zucchini and yellow squash have been coming in like gangbusters for the last week or so.  We have been enjoying dinners of yellow squash sauteed with onions and garlic .... a most satisfyingly complete hot weather dinner!

I have a bag full of zucchini that I will be using to bake zucchini bread in my oven...YES, my OVEN!  Joe was able to get the range that we'd removed from the old Hallieford mansion in January 2010, out of the storage unit where it, and the rest of the kitchen from that house, were waiting patiently, and installed it in my garage kitchen.  Now I will be able to bake like regular folks.... crock pot baking is awesome, but, I think I will enjoy baking 6-8 loaves of zucchini bread at a time, and freezing them for later use.
Range, hiding in the Storage Unit
Judy Resting after Loading Rolls of Carpet
Joe Loading Range into Van
Tomorrow it is back to work for me.  We will have a VERY busy next couple of weeks, I'm sure, as we need to clear out the rest of our belongings from the pond house, and have it ready for the tenants to begin moving their belongings in on June 23.  We are also anticipating (finally) the pour of the cement slurry under the old farmhouse, this week.  It is all ready to go, with the plastic rolled out and taped.  Once the slurry has been poured and set, we will be able to start with the floor joists. We are in no hurry, but it is great to see progress... who knows, we might even have a FLOOR by summer's end! 
Plastic being laid on floor before pour
Yucca Blooms after Transplant

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Garden of Difference

Last night we were reviewing photos taken a year ago.  Back then we were just getting underway in our endeavor to make this old farm house, and the land on which she stands, into a viable farm house on a small, self-sustaining farm.  There was SO much going on during May and June of 2010, that actually getting our few seedlings into a garden plot was looking more and more as if it would never happen.

Still, despite the insane pressures, we were determined to make our start, and so, during the first week of June, we installed the fences for the animal yard, and the fence for the small vegetable garden.  Joe dug a BUNCH (about 60, I think) of holes along the sides of the long driveway and into these, he transplanted the sunflower seedlings he'd started a few weeks earlier.  Meanwhile, in the newly created and fenced garden plot, I transplanted tomato, watermelon, sunflower and pea seedlings.
June 6, 2010 - Tilling first garden spot

Tilled "horseshoe" garden plot
June 7, 2010 -- Planting first "crops"
Holes for Sunflowers along driveway
Eventually I also transplanted some black-eyed susans from my pond house into the little garden, but that would not happen for a couple of weeks.  We were satisfied just to get SOMETHING into the ground.  Our seedlings, for the most part, were very successful.  The peas were a miserable flop, but the watermelon, tomatoes and sunflowers were stellar. But we did not even begin to reap the fruits of that garden until nearly the end of July, as I recall.

This week, June 2, 2011, I picked our first green beans, and yellow straight-neck squash from the same little garden plot.  And yesterday I picked the first grey zucchini.  The strawberries and spinach have about played out, and the peas are producing enough for daily meals and even a little extra for freezing.  All of these, are planted in the original garden plot created last year.  We have a ton of volunteer tomatoes, watermelon and sunflowers that reseeded themselves from last year, and with our direct sowing at the beginning of April, that little garden is resembling a jungle.....
Green Beans are coming in now
Cucumber, yellow squash, waterrmelon, sunflower and more...
a veritable jungle!
Peas... won't last long in this heat
Squash are loading up
And,  of course, this year we REALLY expanded the garden plots around the property.  We have yet to get them fenced, but they are coming along.  We have lots of flowers and fruit on the squash, zucchini, and  cucumber plants.  The corn is very iffy, but we have a few, only a few, strong looking specimens.  The eggplant, written off as losers a week ago, are making a comeback. The first kohlrabi "fruit" is showing, and the tomatoes are flowering. The potatoes, despite the near 100 degree temperatures we have been blessed with this week, are thriving, as are the onions.  The canteloupe plants are finally starting to take off and I expect to find flowers on their vines in the next couple of days.
Cantaloupe is finally taking off
The berry patch is full, but with very little fruit, now that the strawberries are in their "making more babies" stage.  We did discover a few blueberries and black currants on the plants today.  We even have a few grapes on the vines. We won't be getting fat on this year's berry crop, but in the next couple of years, it does look promising.
Black Currants
And of course, we have been planting flowers like crazy, and they are starting to actually look like something.  I had to laugh yesterday when we were making one of our daily walks to see what was popping in the gardens. A couple of weekends ago I had mulched the front garden, home to tall "Irish" grass, forsythia, and dead spruce skeletons.  Before I put the mulch down, Joe planted some roots from the recently transplanted yucca, and scattered a bucket of discarded sunflower and zinnia seeds.  This garden is about 100 feet long and maybe 3 feet wide.  In what seemed like no time, we began seeing a LOT of seedings emerge.  Our visions of a sunflower and zinnia forest amongst the grasses and the forsythia, captivated us.  We talked a LOT about how beautiful it was going to be.  Yesterday, as we examined the sunflower seedlings, Joe noted that they did not really LOOK like sunflowers....nor did many of them look like zinnias.

In fact, despite our sunflower and zinnia forest visions, it looked as if we managed to plant oh, about 150 healthy WATERMELON plants in that front garden...30 or so feet from the two lane road.... BRILLIANT!  That will teach us to take a bucket of "old trash seeds" and broadcast them in the garden!  Still, there are also some sunflowers and some zinnias in the mix that is popping up... but the majority appear to be watermelon.  It will be an interesting front garden, that's for sure!
Front Garden
Watermelon front garden
With almost a whole week without rain, and ridiculously high temperatures, everything is demanding water. I find it hard to believe that as WET as it was here all fall, winter and spring, they are now reporting we are in a drought, with rainfall 6.71 inches below normal.  Thankfully, the 2600 feet of drip tape hose we ordered arrived and we managed to get it installed.  Between that and the sprinklers on the gardens without the drip tapes, we are managing to keep one step ahead of the drought... still, a nice rain shower would be appreciated right about now.

Yes, a year ago we were just beginning to plant, to dream of what could be.... this year, we are well into the return on that dream.
Original Garden May 22, 2011
May 28, 2011
June 1, 2011
More Gardens, May 22, 2011
Squash Plot