Consecration Acres

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


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Hay fever continued

It’s amazing how much a nearly-invisible particle (and all its friends and relations) can affect your life.  For us, the pollen has all but banished us to the indoors and we are really hoping we will soon see a decrease in levels.  I am diligently eating as much minimally-cleaned garden produce as I can manage, keeping in mind that this process will take time…  It is hard after all this down time to be patient and wait for this.

For the Garden Report:  the lettuces are starting to wilt and or bolt in the higher heat, the radishes and spinach are well into bolting and I’m not sure that the fava beans are going to survive long enough to produce anything.  I thought that the favas would be heat-happy based on their country of origin, but the package warned that they should be planted as soon as the ground could be worked and we were way past that point when we got that first bed cleared.  Next year…

I regularly have forehead-slapping moments, and I had one today.  I was out watering and lamented to Elijah that the peas were just producing but that one double row was turning yellow and dying.  He picked a couple from a different row and fed them to Joseph, who gobbled them and then went on to pick some from the yellowing row and eat them.  Elijah told him he shouldn’t eat those ones.  As I was thinking back over the varieties I had planted (so as not to plant the dying variety again) I dragged from the mists of my mind that I had planted a pea variety with “golden” in the name.  And so I tasted a pea pod.  They were great—Golden Sweet Snowpeas if anyone wants to plant them.  This was almost the same as two years ago when I was worried about and trying to remedy yellow spots on my melon leaves, only to realize that they were Moon and Stars melons.  Once again, a feature, not a bug.

As we wait to get out in the garden again, I am trying to chip away at inside projects.  Bethel and I moved the first of five kitchen cabinets up 2” to match the newly installed ones (long story) and Isaiah and I finally installed the barn doors to the piano room.  I may do some before and afters as we complete these projects.  I never did very much with the house back in CA.  It was enormous and overwhelming and expensive to do anything to it.  This house is human scale and we were able to avoid taking out a mortgage, so even though it needs a lot more work, I feel much less owned by it and much more content.  It’s a little small for our current family size, but as we begin the process of launching soon, I suspect it will not remain so.

We had an exciting hay development these last two weeks.  A neighbor mentioned that we might be able to sell our grass hay and got in touch with someone who agreed to cut and bale it for half the proceeds of the sale.  Tomorrow evening the bales will be picked up and we should get around $300 just for letting the grass grow.  This may be the most we have ever made from our little farmish efforts.  Huzzah!

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Sawdust, fermenting woes and an endless summer

Last item first. I think I reached my lifetime capacity for high temperatures while I/we lived in the Phoenix valley. I do try not to complain, but the foggy-brained, energy-drained state that heat puts me into leaves much to be desired. Thank goodness for our evaporatively cooled nights and mornings that allow me to pretend that it is fall.

The benefit of the continuing heat is for both the end of the summer garden (heaven knows we need more eggplants, right?) and the fall/winter garden, which was put in late—as has been our MO this year. Our average 1st frost for this area is supposedly November 14th, but we haven’t had a frost that early since moving here and at least one year we harvested tomatoes in December. As we haven’t had much of a tomato harvest yet, due to too-high temps and irrigation problems, I suppose I can (sigh) suffer with a bit more summer for the possibility of getting a measurable crop. Tomatoes aside, I put in the lettuce, chard, peas and spinach on October 3rd and we’re just seeing our first sprouts. The carrots are looking good, the leeks are up (teeny things) and the first radishes should be ready this week. There are a few beets here and there, but nothing like the number I planted. I am wondering if my soil temp was too high. I really need to figure out the whole shade cloth thing. So many of our gardening issues could be improved.

Apparently, pouring near-boiling water over jalapenos prior to lacto-fermenting them in not a good idea. That jar went to the chickens. The other is in the fridge, awaiting salsa-making. I strung a couple dozen jalapenos onto some cotton kitchen twine and hung them in a west-facing window. Hopefully, they will dry nicely without spoiling, if not, oh well. We are not big jalapeno users, really. I wonder if we should just plant half a jalapeno plant next year.

My second batch of makdous was a disaster. I started them on Monday, stuffed them on Wednesday and was to have put them in jars on Friday. When I opened them, a cloud of fruit flies flew out and they (the makdous) were almost completely covered in gray mold. They also smelled really alcoholic. I think my biggest mistake was cutting some of the longer ones in half before poaching them. They are supposed to be 4” or shorter, but some of the Japanese eggplants were 6”-8”. Cutting them made them draw more water—I noticed when I was salting them that they were really soggy. My second mistake was not putting enough weight on the plate pressing them to squeeze out all that extra water. I think I had close to 10 lbs last time and only about half that this time. My third mistake was not making sure that the cloth covered all the holes in the colander. Fruit flies are small, love fermented stuff and breed rapidly. Those are my theories. Right about now I am rather wishing I could call up my little Lebanese grandmother and get her advice…

Small canning projects continue. I did a batch of pear chutney and some more canned chicken. Doing the store-bought chicken makes me really look forward to having our chicken again. They are getting so close.

We also continue to eat large amounts of food. We ate the first of the garden corn we dried in the form of cornbread. It was very nice. Grains, in general, are labor-intensive to turn into eatables, but the corn was not too bad. Each ear made ¾ cup corn meal and the kernels came off easily when I “wrung” the ear in my hands. The corn seemed a bit softer than the dent I have stored, and only needed to go through the grinder once. We also ate our first pumpkin pies from what we grew. They’ve been sitting out on our porch since July and then cooked for too long. One or the other thing meant that they were not very sweet, still, nice to have pies from our pumpkins, milk and eggs.

Bud sold! Yay! One less mouth to feed over the winter. The debate over which doeling to keep continues. Apparently, this is how one ends up with 7,000 goats.

I am building a canopy bed as this year’s answer to how to keep warm in an unheated bedroom. I have done a bit of woodworking now—a couple coops and other animal shelters, lots of food storage shelves and a couple platform beds—but nothing that was supposed to look like real furniture. I have to say, the finishing work is doing me in. The wood at the big box stores is far from shout-worthy and my little random orbital sander, even with 40 grit, is no match. As I am hoping to do more real-looking furniture in the future, I am thinking that it is time for a belt sander. Mmmmm, excuses to buy power tools…

Bethel and I are in the middle of the fall clothing evaluation/unpacking/purchases. We are done with the three girls and just have the three boys left. I am pleased by how little we actually need. After Joseph was born, we were in pretty rotten shape clothes-wise and it seemed like everyone needed new everything. No longer so! I am grateful for small victories over chaos.


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Pre-winter preparations and wildfire

The beginning of this week saw the departure of my husband and Elijah for a three-day backpacking trip, as well as a return to triple digits. As Grace reeled without her Daddy and the rest of us tried to make up for their absence in various ways (and got really sweaty), we missed them a lot and were glad to have them return on Wednesday afternoon.

My husband took the rest of the week off. While broiling temperatures prevented much outside work past about 10am, we managed to take a trailer load of trash to the dump (just from the garage!) and a giant load of cardboard to recycling on Thursday. The following day, my husband and the two older boys hauled 5 cords of wood onto the place and got pallets to stack it all on. If we have a typical cool and rainy El Nino year, we should have about twice as much wood as we need. If we the drought continues, we’ll have about four times as much as we need…we are hoping and praying for the former even if it means we’ll use more wood!

I have continued to hack away at the eggplants and now peppers as well. I finished the makdous. My husband ate nearly half the first jar as soon as he got home. I haven’t tried them yet…still gathering my courage for that. The tomatoes are looking crispy and stressed after this week, but I am still hoping that they’ll come around and that I’ll be singing the song of too many tomatoes before our first frost hits.

And I canned chicken for the first time. The chicken (boneless, skinless breasts were on sale from the store) was pretty dry going into the jars and I’m pretty sure 75 minutes in a pressure canner did not improve it, but I’ve got my feet wet on the meat canning thing and I’m happy to add those 7 jars to my stash.

The craziest news is that we will likely have another baby born at our house—but that this is not THAT type of announcement. Just as I was thinking that we had nearly gotten through wildfire season without anything near us burning up, a wildfire started just an hour away on Wednesday and absolutely exploded. This morning they are reporting over 72,000 acres burned and nearing 150 homes lost. Yesterday I stayed home from Church with the three youngers who were sniffling and coughing (we couldn’t tell if it was smoke-related or colds, and so we played it safe), but my husband talked to a friend there who was really worried about a family they knew who had been evacuated with their three little boys and the mom 42 weeks pregnant. They had been planning on a home birth and now had no home. Long story short, they are here now. Back even before we moved here, I started feeling prompted to gather supplies for mommas and babies—birth kits and things for newborns. The scripture “woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days” (Matthew 24:19) has always made me so achy-hearted. Anyhow, I did a little here and there, but the expense if it all held me back from getting it finished, until early this year I couldn’t stand it any more, bit the bullet and did it. I felt peaceful right after it was purchased, but as I sorted and stored and sorted and stored, I looked at the ark I’d built in the middle of the desert and prayed and prayed that I’d know how the Lord wanted me to use it. I looked a little bit into donating it, but it didn’t feel right. Anyhow, here we are. I am grateful that I listened and that we can make this all a little less awful for them.


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Eggplant Explosion

The garden continues to awaken out of its heat-induced coma. I went out to the garden last Monday hoping to find 3 lbs of baby eggplants so that I could make makdous. Elijah told me that there might be that many, plus “a few” larger ones, so I grabbed a one-gallon bucket and headed out. I found that the Japanese eggplants were struggling—the plants were wilting and many of the eggplants were shriveling—but I still got about 2 lbs of small fruits that were sufficiently plump for my purposes as well as some larger ones that could be used in another dish. Next I turned my attention to the globe eggplants to try to find another lb of little ones. I quickly found what I needed and then started harvesting the full-grown ones. My bucket was full so I grabbed an old orchard-watering bucket (from the pre-drip era) and transferred the big ones into it. I picked and I picked and I picked and I picked and I picked and ended up hauling a little over 6 gallons (25 lbs!) of eggplants into the house. We love ratatouille and baba ghanoush and baingan bhartha and moussaka as well as thai curries with eggplant, but there is a certain point… So, I’ve frozen it, and pickled it this week and eaten meals with it, and I still have a bunch left. I think I just need to slice it up and dry it. I hear it’s a little stronger tasting, but still good when rehydrated and I certainly have enough that I can afford to experiment!

And I made my makdous. This one of those traditional foods that, if it ever became popular—say the McMakdous became all the latest rage—it would almost certainly become illegal because it’s just so….non-compliant with today’s food safety standards. Much like cheesemaking, buttermilk-making, yogurt-making, sauerkraut-making—you kind of stop and look at what you are doing and say, “if all that I think I know is true then this really ought to kill me”. But then you eat it and it doesn’t, and it’s delicious too. So I guess sometimes we just have to choose between the risks of homemade raw milk chevre and perfectly safe and sterile cheezwhiz in a can. Tough one. Anyhow, the makdous look right, smell right (except for a couple that smelled moldy that I threw at the chickens) and they are now sitting in olive oil, waiting for someone brave enough to taste the first one…

I also canned my first batch of pears this week. As I am over the womens’ provident living efforts at our church, I came up with this idea of “canning mentorship”. This is that those who want to learn to can certain specific items sign up, and then those who are canning those items let them know when they are going to do so, the newbies come over, lend a hand and learn the process, and then can go home and do it themselves. It’s a little different structure-wise from what we are all used to (mostly sit-in-a-classroom and listen to a lesson stuff) and we’re still working the kinks out (scheduling around ripening fruit is always a good trick), but I think it’s going ok. My group dwindled to just one last week, but, hey, that is one more pear canner than the world had before! I’ll do another batch in a couple of weeks and see if I can get the other three then. I do have to say, I felt a little guilty sending her home without any pears after she prepped three jars for me. Maybe next time I’ll have everyone bring a quart jar and I’ll send them home with a full one.

We are trying to get things all set and ready for winter (whenever that happens…triple-digits again this week). Hay went on sale and we stocked up and then on Saturday my husband and the boys brought home our first firewood. We found someone who lives just fifteen minutes away with a bunch of nice live oak firewood. It was nice enough that my husband committed to buy everything he had left—we’ll pick it up bit by bit over the course of the week. We’ve still got to get the chimney swept before we try it out.

We are also working on infrastructure. I think I have some easy structures to keep the wood off the ground and dry and we’ve finally decided to go ahead and roof about half the stalls. When we bought them shortly after we moved here, we were assured by the seller that it would be easy to add a roof if we ever wanted to…we have not found it to be so… It’s going to be a bit pricey, but it will give us space and protection for all the goats and a nice big area for hay. Enabling bulk purchases of hay should help us get our costs down a little…not enough to recoup the roof costs anytime in the next decade, but still…

Also, Isaiah replaced the bottom of the layers’ coop and set up the second electronet to expand their run a bit. The layers moved into it tonight and the meat birds will migrate into the grazing pen and electronet tomorrow night.   Yay!

And I’ve decided to go ahead and start building again. I have really missed it, and my shoulder is doing a bit better, so I’m just going to be careful (my diastasis is still being rottenly stubborn) and build myself a bed! My husband and I have been back and forth on the Master suite wood stove a dozen times. It is hard to plunk down that much money for a stove that would be used for only brief periods of time (to keep from overheating the room) for only 2-3 months of the year. So plan B is to build a canopy bed and fully enclose it in the winter at night. I think that between that, the heat from the main room and solar gain during the daytime and my much-beloved electric blanket, we should stay sufficiently toasty. If I am wrong, I am sure that the woodstove store will still be happy to take our money later on.


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June’s conclusion

I can hardly believe the month is almost over, but I am glad that we are headed for later mornings, if not yet cooler temperatures (the second week of August is our usual turn-around for temps, bleagh). Joseph doesn’t care overmuch about darkness (he will still occasionally awaken around 3am, ready to start the day), but it does seem to make early mornings a bit more of a given for everyone else. The combination, this past week, of relentlessly early mornings, an incredible heat wave and an out-of-town husband left me mostly non-functioning by Friday, but I managed to hack away at a few things during my functional moments prior to that time.

We ended the week with almost as much zucchini as we began it with, but we did not end with twice as much, and that is a great victory. I used 4 cups in zucchini bread, shredded and froze 20 more cups, cooked a bunch up into Ratatouille (along with eggplant and beans from our garden!) and then Isaiah made veggie melts (homemade sourdough bread spread with mayo, topped with a slice of fresh tomato, sautéed onion, shredded zucchini and sliced mushrooms and sprinkled with a little salt and pepper and homemade mozzarella cheese). As I said, the box is full again, but there is nothing rotting or going to the chickens, so I am happy. All our zucchini foods have been delicious. Jordan was pretty repulsed by the idea of zucchini bread initially, but changed her tune upon smelling it baking and then tasting it. She had promised me that I could eat all of her pieces. She did not keep her word.

About half of the milk in the fridge had gone bad and I ended up tossing it, but the other half made fantastic mozzarella—perhaps the best batch I have made, in terms of texture. As always, there was plenty of gasping, jumping up and running to the kitchen when I remembered that I was making cheese in addition to everything else going on, but it’s nice to be familiar enough with the process to know where I can let it slide (waiting for it to curdle and the stretching) and where I have to be really on top of it (not letting the temperature get too high). Bethel helped me stretch it this time. I’ll probably start teaching her the rest of the process on the next batch.

The garden marches on. We pulled the pea plants out. It was a little dismaying to see how many were missed in harvesting. I collected a bit over a pound of “free” seed from my favorite variety—which turns out to be Green Arrow and not Thomas Laxton as I had originally thought—and the goats happily slurped up the others, vines and all. Nothing is ever truly wasted, I suppose.

We also pulled most of the parsnips and the big beets. The sugar beets still await that mythological gap in my schedule when I can squeeze in trying something new.

It looks like we have enough cucumbers for a batch of pickles. We have had some that have been so sweet that we ate them without salt, and a couple so bitter that no amount of salt could make them edible. I think I will just need to taste a slice of each as I go to make sure we end up with good pickles. I may try my mom’s German pickles this time as we still have both dills and sweets from the random Winter cucumber sales this year.

We also harvested our first couple of not-quite-ripe melons (we may lack a little patience around here) and 2 nearly ripe PUMPKINS. Pumpkins? In June? What does one do with pumpkins in June?

And it appears that we have an issue with those irrigation hoses that I was liking. I still don’t know whether it is a defect in the design or young user error (I am afraid that my pleas to adjust the water pressure to “just enough” fell on deaf ears), but we have now lost two and are throwing in the towel and converting to a system like this one. I am trying not to fret over the money wasted and just count it as part of the cost of taking Gardening 101. The funny thing about Gardening 101 is that you think that you are signed up for certain courses, say, Vegetable Varieties that Grow Well in Your Yard, but then the class is going along and you discover that you are actually in Irrigation Systems: Trial and Error or Plant Markers that Don’t Wash off in the Rain or Intro to Cabbage Loopers. The course descriptions need some work…

After a year of thinking about it, I am finally trying to make my own bone meal. The instructions say to fully clean the meat and connective tissues off the bones. After fiddling with it for fifteen minutes I decided the best way to clean the bones off was to boil them, i.e. make stock, but I left out the vinegar that I usually use to pull calcium into the broth as that seemed a little counter-productive. Any guesses as to how many Tablespoons of meal I’ll end up with from two chickens? Our soil is so calcium-poor that we should perhaps be raising something larger and denser-boned for this purpose.

After my old dehydrator died and took all those pineapples down with it, I was excited to see pineapple on sale again this week. Eight pineapples barely filled half of my new dehydrator. They turned out fine, except that the bottom tray was a little softer than the rest. It looks like I might need to do a little tray rotating, but at least this dehydrator does not have a track record of catching fire! Overall, I am pleased with it. I am planning to use the trays from my old one to build a solar dehydrator. We may as well get some benefit from the miserable afternoon temps on our SW-facing black deck.

I am knocking on wood that we are, again mouse-less. Apparently, our barn cats fell down on the job and allowed rodents to access the house at some point and we were seeing droppings and occasional flashes of movement in the kitchen and pantry. I set two traps and we caught one that first night. The other was empty that morning, but when I went to go put it away later on I found it occupied as well. Visions of a large family of mice residing and reproducing in my house filled my mind, so I dutifully peanut-buttered two more traps that night. One of them sprung when Isaiah bounced a basketball in the house, but the other is still set and empty. I pray that it remains so and that my cats are a little more diligent in the future.

And, in yet more vermin news…Isaiah was bitten on the top of the foot by something while he slept and, over the course of the next day, the bite became extremely swollen and uncomfortable. Our usual remedies didn’t touch it and by the following morning he had some edema all across his forefoot (he said it felt sloshy when he shook his foot) and this weird, lacy pattern was developing around the bite. My niece had been bitten by a poisonous spider a few years ago on a trip and they were advised to poultice it with damp tobacco and she recovered quickly with no scarring. We decided to try it out that second night and by the next morning, it was noticeably better. He has continued to heal well, even without reapplying the tobacco. Amazing how something that can be so destructive to bodies when abused can be such a powerful healer when used correctly.

“And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.”


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Heat approaches

I have started bedding things down for a long, fiercely hot summer. Tuesday is supposed to reach 102. I am always so nervous when the first triple-digit day hits, and this year, with our unseasonably cool May, I am even more so. It is a refiner’s fire indeed—culling the weakest plants, trees and animals too…always heart-stopping.

I got the last of the sweet potatoes planted, and reserved just a couple of cuttings to fill in gaps if we lose some. I stuck the three potatoes in as well as they had several sprouts each that were too small to root. I need to mark them so I can see if there is a difference between those and the cuttings at harvest time. That bed and the pepper/eggplant bed each got a thick layer of straw mulch on them. The sweet potatoes already look better.

After deciding that we must have slugs eating our cabbages and sprinkling coffee grounds around the plants to deter them, it turns out that we actually have little green cabbage worms. Research required.

We harvested two varieties of beets. They kept wilting, stopped recovering well from their wilts and a couple sent up seed stalks. Overall, the harvest was disappointing. It appears that the soaker hose has a dry spot (how?!) and it was right there, hence the wilting and stress… We have since used the previously unused end of the hose in a nearby bed to fill in the gap for future plantings. We expect a nice little row of weeds to crop up in the path beneath it. Oh well. Next year we will be more sane in our soaker hose layout.

Speaking of, I have tried now three different types of soaker hoses: the rubbery water weeper ones, the sewn fabric ones and now the green “sprinkler if you flip it up, soaker if you turn it down” ones. I like these last ones the most—having a visible hole in the hose every few inches is straightforward and the 5-year warranty inspires confidence. We shall see how they do over time.

In other watering news, Isaiah got the orchard on drip irrigation this week! He made some mistakes along the way, he learned a lot and a friend of ours was so impressed with his work that she’s going to hire him to fix a broken section of her system. Both boys are relieved that orchard-watering went from a 45-minute job to a 5-minute job. I look forward to a similar reduction in the total garden-watering time. Seven watering zones at 15-minutes each is a lot of hooking and unhooking and back-and-forth trips to the garden.

I finally replaced the broken outdoor blinds on the front porch house. I bought three new ones last year, but never managed to get up on a ladder to do the hanging. The two I bought later have magnetic breakaway cords to comply with safety requirements. The instructions warned that care must be taken while raising the blinds to avoid deploying the new feature. Mine broke away twice while I was very gently lowering them. I can’t imagine them standing up to a raising of any sort, or even a stiff wind in a partly raised position, for that matter. Sigh. They used to be a reasonably good product. As I am planning to build my own from shade cloth, I suppose it doesn’t matter much.

Encouraged by his successes in the orchard Isaiah is now concocting his own plans to build the ultimate misting system for our front porch. I told the kids about living in the Phoenix valley and walking past restaurants that had outdoor seating and going suddenly from searing heat and sun to the foggy Scottish moors—this is really what I want on our deck. Perhaps if we had enough mist, it would turn our masonry house into a huge evaporative cooler…

We are attempting to un-free-range Rudy’s flock. I patched a hole in the fence and suspended a tarp over a section of broken netting. I am tired of droppings everywhere, hidden caches found full of eggs or uncertain date ( and the rotten egg surprises that follow) and I suspect that they are eating some of our very pricey fly predators. Lately, some of them have been laying in the cats’ “house”, much to the cats’ chagrin. The one thing I will miss is Jordan coming in every day to tell us that the cats laid another egg.

And we have a Golden Comet broody! Golden Comets are not supposed to go broody, of course. Also, she wants a nice, neat little nest just outside both of our enclosures and gets rather irked when we try to move her. Chickens.

We lost two chicks this week. One died of unknown causes—he was going down when I went out to check on them early in the week and never recovered—and the other appears to have pasted up. It is rotten that we missed it as it is fairly easily remedied. Overall, we have had much less pasting up than last year and we have protected them very well from predators thus far. Some day we’ll be fantastic at this. We are still working on keeping them well watered. They are always thirstier than I think they will be at this age and size.

I need to get out and get the goats more shade. Again, I am nervous about this upcoming week.


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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.