Consecration Acres

"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy."


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Garden and orchard report

I need to do a quick wrap-up of the last couple of weeks so that my brain can let go and move in to this Monday.

We spent last week sick and it sure felt like the flu again. Apparently, this year’s strain was/is mutating really quickly. Woohoo. At least I was smarter with the herbs this go around and didn’t make things worse—everyone seems to have wrapped it up in about a week and the coughs are going away quickly. In brief, don’t use immune stimulants with flu—it is better to treat it more like an allergy.

Also, in the exciting world of herbs, I finally planted that last blueberry out with the others and filled the empty planters with peppermint, chocolate mint and stevia. I have a couple of other herbs that I want to put out there with them as soon as I decide which planters to buy. Most herbs require a lot of sun, but there are few that should do well up there. Our raspberry canes are also going completely nuts. I just keep walking out there and seeing all those leaves and thinking “medicine, medicine, medicine….”

The other plants I put in are doing well. I bought them from the same place where we purchase our bulk foods. I had no idea that they carried plants as well! They also carry gypsum for about ½ the price that we paid for ours. Good to know for the future. Anyhow, I planted leeks, bush beans, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, pumpkins and two types of winter squash. I try to avoid looking at companion planting charts as I have thoroughly messed things up in that sense, and rotating our crops is going to be ridiculous given this year’s bed usage. I am just making use of whatever space we have available, throwing things in the ground willy-nilly and always a little bit late, but at least they are in the ground! We’ll work on being a little less silly with the Fall garden.

I bought a bunch of blank paint stir sticks to mark the garden with. I need to find a different way of writing plant varieties on them—the ink washed away in our single rainstorm. I am thinking of trying the fabric paint that comes in squeeze bottles. It wouldn’t wash away, but could be scraped or sanded off so I could reuse the markers.

We have eaten our first produce from the Spring garden (the peas were planted in the Fall)—radishes, of course. Grace pronounced them “sour”, as she describes anything with an intense flavor.

I spent some (lots of) time levelling the ground and fixing the mulch around the fruit trees. We had a neighbor bring in heavy equipment to plant the fruit trees we bought this year. The planting went a lot quicker, but everything’s really torn up back there now. I’m trying to get it shifted back to level-ish before it bakes in the sun for eight months. And the boys either didn’t hear or understand my instructions on mulching the trees, as the mulch is all right up against the bark, sometimes even covering the graft. I’m scraping that down, redistributing it evenly around the tree and then putting a 6” band of pea gravel immediately around the trunk of the tree. The gravel should do all the good things mulch is supposed to do, but not harbor insects so badly.

The new apple trees are looking lousy. I haven’t taken the time to ID what is getting them (some kind of caterpillar), but Isaiah hit them with some neem last week, so hopefully that will knock them back and give the trees a chance to put out some new leaves.

Ella is looking wide. About five weeks to go before she kids!

The farmers nearby are cutting and baling hay. I’d like to try a little cutting, drying, stacking this year just to get our feet wet, but I’ll have to see if I can squeeze it out of the boys in between garden bed building and filling. I am working really hard to heal my diastasis right now so that I will be more useful in the future, but right now cross-body motion is strictly forbidden. No scything or raking for me…

I went ahead and painted the front door. I’ve been missing New England really badly this last year and was on Houzz looking at NE farmhouses when I was up at 3:30am with a wakeful Joseph and I realized that the green I chose is really common back there, if not so much in sunny CA. Now, if my door didn’t have so much glass I could hang my pineapple door knocker and really be set.

I took Joseph down to Sacramento for a bill hearing at the Capitol. The turnout of concerned citizens was encouraging, but I was reminded of how slimy and underhanded the whole political thing can be and of what an utterly awful idea it is to give a group of people the full-time job of coming up with rules and restrictions for everyone else—cause they sure do it! I know there are states where the legislature is only allowed to meet for a very few designated weeks so that the legislators can and need to have other jobs. It seems that their time and mine would be better spent under such an arrangement.

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Slow week

Slow it was and the weather was cool and perfect for gardening, etc. More the shame, but sometimes one can’t do exactly what one would wish. It seems the more ones are involved, the greater the likelihood of this occurring. I imagine, though, that it is good for me to set my preferences aside and that the One who set up this whole system, will take care of the garden and trees in my absence.

The kids and I went up to the orchard where we bought all those oranges for a sort-of picnic just before our dentist appointments. We decided to eat our lunch at home, as Chickpea Curry would have been a mess with a bunch of kids on a blanket, but we bought oranges and apples there. We held our morning devotional on their lovely lawn and then nearly finished our book before we had to leave. I wish we had not been so rushed—it was so, so beautiful. When I look out over our little orchard, beginning garden and bare/weedy yard, I see this place in my mind’s eye. Mature fruit trees producing an abundance of food, and a clean, beautiful and orderly place to live, work and enjoy. Some day! Truly! I just have to hope that if I keep hacking away at it, eventually I’ll get there.

I finally got the front porch cleaned off. The kids had let cardboard and packing materials accumulate and between that, the potted blueberries (which are now all planted except one) that had been repeatedly de-mulched by the cats, and the handiwork of thousands of spiders, it was looking pretty awful. Now it looks bare, but clean. I’d really like to get the door painted and the planters refilled with something heat and shade-loving and preferably useful for food or medicine. Searching…

I’ve also been cleaning and organizing our bonus room. We had stashed the low-priority boxes up there when we first moved so we could deal with the more urgent things. Unfortunately, the kids got into them and broke, lost and scattered their contents all over the room. For anyone wondering, having a big house definitely has some disadvantages. A-number-one is that you can be blithely living your life in one end of it, thinking that all is well, while the house and its contents are being destroyed at the other and you have no idea until it is too late. Anyhow, a couple of giant cardboard bonfires and six or so weeks of slightly overstuffing our trash can and we’ll see the end of the trash. Then I’ll just have kids’ clothing, camping supplies, old paper files and three memorabilia boxes to sort. I’ll just keep remembering how impossible it once seemed to fill up all my canning jars…

Speaking of canning jars, I bought another box so I could try out some strawberry-pear butter. Directions so I can replicate or tweak next time: 7-quart slow cooker filled with pear puree, cooked down to 2/3rds, added 2 lbs of strawberries, cooked down to about ½ full, added a few dashes of salt, a couple Tablespoons of vanilla, ½ lemon, 1/3 cup sugar and then finally immersion-blended in another pound of fresh strawberries as things just weren’t coming together. It turned out fine, but apple seems the way to go if you want to stretch strawberries.

I need to spend some time building cardboard lids and dividers for jars so I can get them out of my kitchen. Once upon a time canning jars boxes kept your jars clean and from rattling into eachother. No more. So, I build my own out of the abundance of cardboard we always seem to have. They are sturdy and protective by the time I’m done, but I hate taking the time out of my day to do it. I wish these weren’t so expensive!

The garden and orchard are great right now. Thing are sprouting and blooming, fruitlets are forming and bees and butterflies are everywhere. Grace always wants to come with me when I go out to work. I always put on grubby clothes and take my little soft-side toolbag that has my gardening things in it. On Monday, Grace came out with me wearing a pink dress with a ruffled hem, her blue “straw” hat with a flower, and a little princess purse. When we got to the garden, she unzipped her purse and got out her pink, flowered gardening gloves. I thought we made quite the pair.

Our second bed if built and mostly filled. It just needs fertilizing and mixing now, and just in time! Our seed potatoes are still waiting and our sweet potatoes are very aware that it’s Spring and are growing in earnest. I finally broke off some of the longer sprouts to root in water and discovered that one already had an abundance of roots. We need to plant soon. Oh, and the one sweet potato that hadn’t grown anything yet, finally sprouted leaves…underwater of course. I think they are mocking me.

And we finish up the week sick again (just colds), looking forward to General Conference and with rain forecast. Pray, pray, pray. We still have only about 1/3 of what we need to keep from deepening the drought.