Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wait for it.....

Using a food mill to process some of our tomatoes into
tomato soup for canning. We also dehydrated more of
our produce this year as well.
With temperatures often in the high 90's with close to 100% humidity, we are not very motivated to tackle new projects in the summer unless they are absolutely necessary. The daily chores get done, albeit at a slower pace but most everything else making its way onto our to-do lists is placed there with the caveat of 'wait for cooler weather'. That said, we have had a busy summer of gardening and canning but even that required some waiting for a different reason. This spring we found ourselves with a somewhat altered mantra of 'wait for the rain to stop' which was then quickly followed by the usual 'wait for cooler weather'.

So, with my love of lists, I decided this blog would enumerate the various times we have found ourselves waiting over the past few months, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.

Note the weeds in the center of this picture
are taller than the rake to the right of them
Weeds be gone...or not
We do not have a yard per se - no grass, only weeds and rocks. Each spring Alan has a two-part regimine to prepare what we call the yard for the upcoming summer. He sprays the entire area with Permethrin to control ticks and also with a defoliant to control the weeds. The defoliant instructions require the foliage be dry when it is applied and that there be at least 3 days before the next rain.

Well, if you recall from my blogs this spring and early summer, it was a very wet spring. We had rain so often, we were never able to apply the defoliant before I got my gardens planted. We considered using the defoliant later on in the summer as the weeds began overtaking various areas around the house, but were afraid the spray may be carried over into the various gardens. So we decided to live with weeds as the grew, and grew .... and grew.

The luffa qourds are flourishing again this year.
Now I just need to wait for them to dry on the vines.
Then comes the fun of peeling the dried skin away
to get to the luffa 'sponges'.
I pulled and chopped some that became a nuisance on the pathways to the gardens, etc. but those that were in outlaying areas were allowed to flourish. Some of these were actually very pretty with 6 foot stalks filled with small flowers. We also commented that we had a lot of bee and butterfly activity for pollination this year in the gardens as well as a lot less insect infestation destroying our produce. so maybe there were some benefits to living a bit more on the wild side.

Waiting for the harvest... or not
You may recall that we expanded the gardens this year by adding another container garden a bit further south of the house. And also that again due to heavy rains and other interruptions we managed to plant both the south and bottom gardens but did not get much in the north garden which is our main area of raised beds. Despite the near empty north garden, our gardens did quite well. I planted several new items this year and I found my self waiting for them to ripen so I could try them.

First were my Mother Mary's Pie Melons. I had read that these were good to mix with apples when making a pie and decided to try growing some even though I have not had much luck with other melons in the past. These melons grew quite well, but as I had never grown them, or even seen them before, I was not sure when to harvest them. There were several coming on at once and I picked one as a test subject when it started turning yellow, I then waited a few days and then picked another from that group that had ripened further to a full bright yellow. While the first one had seemed a little under ripe when I tasted it, the second one was more flavorful but a little mushy  I decided the optimum time to pick them was just as they were turning completely yellow, at that point they have the firmness of an apple with the flavor of a very mild melon.

Guess which Candy Roaster squash
I picked first (and a bit too early).
As other fruits and vegetables ripened over the summer, I discovered I always have a problem with the idea of  wait for it. Whether it was tomatoes, onions, blackberries, candy roaster squash or anything else that was ripening in the garden, I would always pick the first ones  a bit too early even after I had told myself I needed to wait a bit longer.

Ginger was another new plant I was growing this summer. I knew it had a very long growing season and I kept telling myself  'not yet' as my fingers kept itching to pull it out of the dirt to see how it was growing. Finally in late August the plant was large and leaf and I could see one of the rhizomes (the ginger 'root') starting to stick out of the dirt a bit. I could wait no longer, I grabbed hold of the plant and pulled it out.  I was happy to see a long row of rhizomes that were growing, but in all honesty, I had once again harvested too early and I quickly stuck them back in the ground in hopes they would continue growing despite my rude intervention. I am happy to report I have since harvested said plant and it had grown a bit more.

After pulling my ginger a little too early
I re-planted it and it grew a bit more.
An interesting side note on my ginger - I bought a 'hand' of ginger from the produce department at the local grocery store. I then soaked it for a couple hours to remove any growth deterrent that may have been applied. I then planted the store bought ginger as an experiment and it grew quite well. I am hoping to give it a longer growing season by starting it indoors over the winter.

Waiting for the birds to return... but not the raccoons
I love feeding the birds throughout the fall and winter. We get quite a variety and we always have several feeders and suets hanging from the deck rail and from the eaves of the house outside our living room windows. However, we have an ongoing war with the raccoons to keep them from ravishing the feeders. I can put up with the squirrels as it is quite fun to watch their antics as they hang upside down on the feeders, but the raccoons do their plundering at night and are much more destructive.

Alan working on the new Pulley system
for the bird feeders.
Alan had constructed retractable poles that are attached to the deck rails for hanging our feeders. We pull the pole in to fill the feeders and then push the pole back out so the feeders are about six feet out from the deck. However, we will still hear a raucous at night and when we shine a light out on the feeders there will be raccoons nimbly walking out the pole to enjoy a midnight snack and we awaken the next morning to empty bird feeders. This year we devised another plan to hopefully thwart the pesky plunderers. Alan rigged a pulley system like the one I hang our laundry on. We now fill the feeders, attach them to the line that stretches from the house to a tree about twenty feet from the deck. Now comes another wait. We are waiting to see (1) if the raccoons will attempt to reach the feeders (2) if the squirrels will be able to traverse the line to get to the feeders and (3) if the rig will be able to hold the weight of the full feeders (and possibly the additional weight of squirrels).

Waiting for water... really
After all the flooding I blogged about a few months ago, it's hard to believe that we have actually been waiting for it to rain for several weeks now. We have two tanks we use on a daily basis. The tank outside of our utility room which we use for water in our utility room (i.e. laundry) and also further filter to place in the holding tank for our kitchen use. We have an outdoor hose attached to this tank as well to use for watering the south and bottom gardens. The other tank designated for daily use is the one outside of the bathroom which supplies water for showers and flushing the toilet.

We have two other water storage tanks. One is under the front deck, has a pump attached and is used to water the north garden. The other is behind the house, near the utility room tank and is used as a reserve storage. Our water supplies were getting so low in the two daily-use tanks that we called upon the other two tanks as reinforcements. Since I had not fully utilized the north garden this year, that tank has been full all summer. This past week Alan transferred its water to the bathroom tank.

When we do get a good downpour, the utility room tank is filled and overflowing in just a couple of hours, so last week we decided to plumb the utility tank and the reserve tank so that they will act as one larger tank. This was a good time to do it as we needed to raise the utility tank a few inches so they would both be at the same level and thus fill evenly. The utility tank was nearly empty so we were able to power wash the inside, even though that meant using more of our dwindling water supply, and then raise it up to be level with the other tank. With the tanks plumbed together, the gutter still empties in the utility tank, but the water flows freely from that tank to the reserve tank so they fill (and empty) as one container. Well, that is the theory - we are still waiting for rain to see it in practice.

Waiting to start some new projects... chicky-chicks (hopefully)
We have several projects in the planning stages that will boost our self-reliance. All of these take place on more out-lying areas of the property so we are waiting for the end of chigger season before starting construction. These include a chicken coop, rabbit hutches and an orchard. I am writing about these upcoming projects in hopes that it will spur us on to get them completed this year.

There is an old structure at the north end of the property that we graciously refer to as 'the cottage'. We were told that it was built as an enclosed porch that had been added to an RV that had been parked there at one time. Our plans are to rehab this somewhat decrepit structure into a chicken coop. It is large enough that we have plans to build rabbit hutches inside of it as well. We will also add a run for the chickens that they can access from the coop.

There is currently a hole in the roof that we are going to cover with the corrugated sheets that are made of transparent fiberglass that are sometimes used on green houses, this will supply sunlight for the rabbits.  Due to fewer hours of sunlight, chickens tend to slack off in their egg laying in the winter. Many people have lights in their chicken coops that they use to extend the hours of light the chickens receive to keep up egg production. Our plans are to 'sacrifice' a few of our original, smaller, solar panels from our house system to set up a smaller solar system for the livestock.

As for the orchard, I have a list of about a dozen dwarf fruit trees I want to order in this fall. There is a clearing at the north west corner of the property that we want to fence in to establish the orchard. We had originally planned to plant the orchard last spring, which would have been wonderful since we had such a wet spring, but funds were not available before the ordering cut-off date for the trees. The fall ordering window is now open, so hopefully there will be funds available before the winter cut-off date. However that leads us to one final thing we are anxiously awaiting....

Turkey Palooza... our annual family extravaganza
Each year we have an extended (week long) celebration with our kids and grandkids. We rent a house big enough to hold us all and have a week filled with love, laughter and lots of quirky traditions. The past few years my parents have also been able to join us and they get to meet a new great-grandchild each year. This year's house is near LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The amenities include a 4-season room with heated floors and an out-door hot tub, but the extravagances I am most looking forward to are the washing machine and shooting range!

My next blog will talk about some new tools we recently purchased to help with our fall chores as well as some new hobbies aimed to improve our self-reliance. But you will just have to ....wait for it.

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