May 26, 2024

Garden Notes: May 2024


    • 3rd: 2.17"
    • 6th: 1.57"
    • 8th: 0.13"
    • 9th: 2.4"
    • 13-14th: 0.92"
    • 15th: 0.04"
    • 17th: 0.12"
    • 18th: 0.01"
    • 19th: 0.69"
    • 23rd: 0.15"
    • 25th: 0.09"
    • 27th: 0.4"
    • Total: 8.69 inches

    • range of nighttime lows: 48 to 65°F (9 to 18°C)
    • range of daytime highs: 65 to 86°F (18 to 30°C)

    Weather Notes
      • Hail on the 6th
      • Very wet month, with quite a few days of drizzle with no accumulation.
      • Because the temps are mild, moisture remains in the ground and doesn't evaporate right out (one of our worst problems in hot summer).

      • pole beans, Cornfield
      • peanuts
      • buckwheat
      • summer squash, Tatume
      • okra, Clemson Spineless
      • sunflowers, Russian Mammoth
      • cantaloupe, Hale's Best
      • pearl millet
      • collards
      • pepper plants

      • lettuce
      • strawberries
      • snow peas
      • wild lettuce
      • chickweed
      • kale
      • mulberries
      • oregano
      • asparagus
      • red raspberries
      • peppermint
      • greenhouse potatoes
      • hopniss
      • horseradish root
      • turnip

      Garden Photos

      Except there are no actual photos of the garden!

      Early May meant a flush of strawberries, and so our first
      strawberry shortcake of the year with homegrown whipped cream.

      Edible pod peas and red raspberries.

      Pea and peanut salad with a dollop of mayonnaise.

      Greenhouse potato harvest. Not a lot, but I didn't
      plant a lot. I'd call it a successful experiment!


      Mulberry pancakes

      And then, since Dan has been talking about pineapple, I thought I'd make him an upside-down cake, substituting mulberries for those yucky candied cherries. Unfortunately, when I turned it out of the pan . . .

      Upside-down cake fail

      I think this is because I cut back on the sugar and butter, because I cut back on sugar and butter in all my cakes. That works for the cake, but didn't give me enough sauce for the pineapple and berries. So it stuck to the pan! But it still tasted good and I learned a lesson for next time.

      Your turn. How does your garden grow?

      May 17, 2024

      Chaos in the Hen House

      What is it with chickens? There can be any number of perfectly good empty nest boxes available, but they want the one that another bird is already in!  And they are quite persistent about it. They will push on in and sit on the current occupants head, even pecking her if necessary, to get her to move. If the invading hen happens to be one of Rooster Schooster's favorites, he joins in with all manner of squawking! 

      Of course, when Schooster sets up a fuss, we have to go check. Even when we're pretty sure it's just over nest box squabbling, it could also be a snake or rat, both of which are egg and chick stealers. One time, we had a skunk brazenly walk into the coop in broad daylight and kill chicks! So, reasonable doubt requires making sure everything is okay. 

      Egg laying is bird business, which means that none of them is interested in (or compliant with) the humans' opinions and solutions to the problem. Our efforts to sort things out are completely ignored, and the battle for the nest boxes continues with the sense of business as usual. For the most part it actually isn't a problem. It becomes a problem, however, when the occupying hen/duck/turkey is broody and wants to hatch some eggs. 

      Broodies can be pretty persistent, but when they are successfully routed out of their nest by a rude chicken, they move and then stay there. This results in the eggs being abandoned which means none of them hatches. Our solution has become to keep an eye out and then move the eggs to the broodie's new next. 

      This solution points to another problem however. That is, now there are more eggs so that they are at different stages of development and often become too numerous for the broody to properly cover and incubate. 

      I'm guessing that at about this point, many of you are wondering why we don't use an incubator and skip the fiasco in the hen house. There are several reasons for this, which are logical to us, although they may not make sense to others.
      • We like having a mixed age flock because it helps keep egg production at a consistent level. Old hens eventually lay less, while younger hens lay the most. With a mixed age flock we can keep six hens and have a surplus of eggs to share year after year.
      • Consequently, we don't need a specific number of new chicks every year. We don't do the replacement flock thing, so just a trickle of new chicks each year works well for us.
      • It's infinitely easier to let the birds hatch and rear their own young! This is nature's way, after all, and it relieves us of the accompanying chores of the job. Plus, we firmly believe that babies deserve to have their own mother. 

      So, speaking of baby poultry and mothers, here is the first hatch of the year:

      Yup, our turkey hen hatched out two duck eggs and they are all perfectly content with the arrangement. The added bonus for the ducklings is that the chickens—which tend to be ruthlessly mean toward newcomers—absolutely leave Jenny's babies alone. They are all quite intimidated by her, so nobody messes with her young 'uns!

      Sadly, we lost one duckling when it drowned in the big water dish. But the other is doing just fine.

      Currently we have two broody ducks and a broody hen in the nest boxes. We're waiting to see what's next. 

      May 11, 2024

      Gate: A Keyhole Garden Preliminary

      I showed you this photo last time

      Where the new African keyhole garden is going to be.

       Compare that to this photo from before we built the greenhouse.

      Between the bushes and pile of bricks is a gate. The little orange surveyors flags mark the proposed corners of the greenhouse, so the gate had to come out. It was replaced with the back wall of the greenhouse.

      The gate was handy for going from back to front yards with a wheelbarrow or lawnmower. Needless to say, we've missed having it. Now, with bricks for the keyhole garden to haul around, it seemed like the time to put the gate back in.

      Dan made the gate from an extra fence panel

      It was a pretty straightforward job.

      Still to do: terrace the ground on the backside of the gate. It slopes down this side so terracing it will help prevent soil washing away.

      Stepping back . . .

      This is a great improvement in convenience. Once it stops raining and the ground dries out, Dan is ready to begin on the keyhole foundation. 

      May 5, 2024

      Summer Schedule, Summer Projects

      It's May and I've turned from my winter schedule to my summer schedule. With the days so much warmer, I do my gardening in the morning now, when I still have a bit of shade and cooler temperatures. Afternoons are used for shade or indoor projects. 

      Planting the summer garden will be finished soon, so once plants are growing, I'll turn my attention to mulching. I'll have harvest preservation later in the summer, so until then, I'm plugging away on the front bedroom, working my way through sorting a second round of boxes. I need to get it at least semi-organized before I put something on that big floor loom. I did a pretty hefty sort and purge last summer, when I moved my sewing and weaving stuff into my sewing room. But there was a lot of "undecideds" that seemed easier to set aside at the time. I'm going through those boxes now. That in turn, has me cleaning out our other storage spaces to reorganize and use the space better. Plus, we're about at the end of our remodeling, so everything we saved for possible future projects (like the windows for the greenhouse) are no longer needed. So we have a lot of things to donate to Habitat for Humanity.

      One of those storage spaces is our shed, which needs it's foundation redone. Dan put it on pallets when we moved it to put up the clothesline, but these are beginning to rot so that it's listing. Makes the floor mushy too.

      I've cleared out all the pots and garden stuff, which
      will have a new home on shelving in the greenhouse.

      So that's something on Dan's summer project list. Another project is doing something about the bare spot where he pulled out the crape myrtle beside the greenhouse. (You can see that action here). 

      We removed it because it created inopportune shade. Last summer, it grew a mess of weeds, so this year he wants to put in another African keyhole garden. With the crepe myrtle was gone, this seemed like a good spot for it. 

      My big outdoor project will be re-painting the barn

      It was painted six years ago and so didn't make its 10-year guarantee. What's even more amazing, is that the paint on the chicken coop, which was built and painted four years before the barn, is still in good shape. Walls of both are plywood, but the chicken coop got oil based barn paint, while the goat barn got latex barn paint. 

      The real disappointment is my barn quilt. It was painted with good quality exterior paint on Lowe's best outdoor use plywood, but look at it. 

      It's screwed onto the barn doors, so likely it will just come down. Not sure about making another one at present. I'll put that on my "someday" list.

      You may have noticed that what isn't on the project list is finishing the walls in the office and front bedroom. The construction part of these fall under Dan's domain, and so I have to wait on his motivation. At any rate, we have plenty to keep us steadily busy this summer, weather permitting.

      How about you? Do you have a seasonal project list? Care to share?

      May 2, 2024

      Product Review: Marchpower Cooling Comforter

      It's May and summer temps are here. Even though it still gets comfortably cool at night, it's only a matter of time before that heats up too. And this is why I am pleased to share another product with you, one that I was happy to review and can wholeheartedly recommend, the Marchpower Gradient Cooling Comforter.

      Queen size Marchpower Cooling Comforter

      Is it really cooling? Yes! Through advanced textile technology (called "Arc-Chill"), jade nanoparticles are woven into the fabric. Somehow, this makes something amazing happen; heat and moisture are wicked away to produce a wonderful cooling effect. 

      So, how is the comforter different from the cooling blanket and t-shirts I reviewed two years ago? The comforter is triple layer. The top and bottom are made of the same Arc-Chill cooling fabric. The inner filling layer consists of a 3-D hollow structure fiber. They're cushioned with air, which makes for a delightfully lightweight, fluffy comforter.

      First Impressions
      • The comforter is lightweight and deliciously soft and silky. 
      • A nice sleeping weight.
      • Mine is a pretty gradient blue, but it comes in gray too.
      • Queen size covers both of us nicely.

      • Machine wash; cool water, gentle cycle. Laundry bag recommended.
      • Line dry. I know some people think this is a deal breaker if they don't have a clothesline, but I often dry blankets and comforters by spreading them over the back of the sofa and turning once. 

      Cooling Tips
      • During the night, the comforter may seem to loose its effect. Simply change positions or give it a shake.
      • Using a ceiling or room fan on low will crank up the cooling effect.

      Who would benefit from a cooling comforter?
      • Anyone who wants to lower their electric bill.
      • Anyone who wants to lower their carbon footprint by not running their air conditioner so much. 
      • Off grid situations like camping and backpacking.
      • Backup cooling in case the electricity goes out.
      • As part of an emergency kit for a summer road trip. Keep cool if the car breaks down on a hot day in the sun!

      Okay, I know I sound like some sort of scripted advertiser. But honestly, I'm just so happy to have cooling products in our life. We strive to be as low energy as possible, and in my part of the country (the hot, sultry southeastern US) products like this truly help us achieve our goal in comfort. 

      You can see more photos and information at the Amazon link:  

      And! You can get  10% off with the following discount code:  
      WS8AZQW4 (expires Sept. 30, 2024)