July 11, 2016

Coming home

We had a truly lovely and peaceful week up on Lake Manistee, relaxing at our family lakehouse together with two of my stepsons, my mother-in-law and her boyfriend, my dad, and our dogs.  It was the first trip up there for pure relaxation, instead of rehabbing the house.  We needed a good break and felt rejuvenated by it. 

By the end of the week, I was feeling the itch to come home to the farm though.  I wanted to meet those baby ducks and was curious what was happening in my garden.  

One part of the return that I was dreading with great vigor was making up for a week's worth of egg washing.  Our wonderful neighbors collected the eggs and put them in our egg fridge in basins.  On Saturday evening Josh began carrying them into the kitchen... one, then another, then another.  Hundreds of eggs!  He jumped right in and starting at the sink while I made egg cartons to put them in.  Together we got the task completed and all the eggs ready for a Monday delivery to Jungle Jims.

Saturday afternoon I went to look at the state of the garden.  Rita had told me that it'd rained a lot while we were gone so I figured things would be growing well, but I hadn't pictured the jungle I encountered.  

I sat down under the lean-to next to the garden feeling overwhelmed by it all.  I decided to come back out early Sunday, before the heat set in, when I was was rested and ready to do battle with my wild plants.  I had plenty to do inside where it was cool and the world felt contained and manageable - bottling my kombucha and starting a new brew, making a fresh batch of hummingbird food, unpacking, doing laundry, getting life back in order.

The next morning I got up early, feeling ready for my task.  After coffee and some breakfast, I went out to the garden.  I surveyed things: weeds needing pulling, lots of things to harvest, vines to control, tomatoes to tie up, flowers to pick, garlic to dry...  I decided to just simply start at the gate and work my way in.

The beans I planted had climbed all the to the top of this trellis in my absence!  That's about three feet taller than the roof of the lean-to.  I'm going to need a ladder to pick them.  The flowers are coming on.  Beans soon.  I weeded at the feet of the plants.

Here you can see the wild cucumber vines, which grew over anything near them.  I should have thinned them before I left, but didn't have the time.  Under the trellis a volunteer pumpkin plant had also ballooned through the cucumbers filling every gap, looking for light.  First thing I did was get that pumpkin out of there, which freed up a lot of space for the cucumbers.  Next I tried, as gently as possible, to pull out some of the cucumber vines so they weren't so crowded.  This was hard because their little tendrils had wrapped around each other, making it difficult to remove some vines without damaging them all.

Once I had cleared things enough to get under the trellis I picked cucumbers!

The ones above are an Indian variety which turns khaki when ripe and tastes slightly lemony.  I picked a whole five-gallon bucket of cucumbers and put them in the egg fridge while I continued working.  They will become pickles soon.

Weaved in with the cucumber vines where the huge leaves of other squash I planted: butternut, pattypan and zucchini.

All the squash have fruit on them, but the zucchini were ready for harvest, really overdue.

I picked these seven gigantic zucchini off of two plants.  I brought them into the kitchen and laid them out on the counter.  These I would deal with today.  Then back out to the garden...

Pretty little Calendula were blooming in two spots in the garden.  These flowers are edible and can be used in lots of different ways.  I picked some open blossoms to dry.

My little asparagus patch is looking healthy.  The foliage filled in a lot this past week.  You can see tiny little asparagus shoots.  It's going to be a real exercise in patience to leave it be at least another year before harvest!

Peppers are here!  These are called Tolli's Sweet - a variety I have gotten the last couple years from Seed Savers.  It is really productive and the little peppers are nice for a variety of different things.

My eggplants were getting devoured by some tiny black bugs and I hadn't held out too much hope that they would make it to produce fruit, but like magic... a tiny little eggplant!

I've never grown okra today but decided to try it this year.  Now I need some good okra recipes.  Anyone have one to share?

I was intrigued by this little plant in the Seed Savers catalog this year.  It's called a ground cherry.  The fruits grow in these little paperlike wrappers.

When they turn brownish, they are ready to pick.

Inside is this little berry.

When the seedling arrived it looked teensy and a little sickly, but once it got established, it flourished.  Now it has spread out all over the place and is loaded with little berry shells.  I picked a few and ate them then and there - a treat for the gardener.

Watermelon seeds I planted have sprouted and are growing quickly.

My beets are now football sized.  I made a note to do a batch of pickled beets soon.  For now, I just weeded the rows and left them be.

Kale, too, needs to be harvested and preserved but not today.  It got weeded at least.

I missed the garlic scapes this year.  The leaves were wilted and about half-brown: time to pull the plants.  I used my shovel to loosen the soil around them and pulled out the bulbs.

After cleaning some of the dirt out of the roots with dry hands, I tied the different varieties up to dry under the lean-to.  They'll be ready to bring into the kitchen in a couple weeks.

The corn took a little bit of a beating in all the storms we had.  Several stalks had been knocked over, but mostly it was ok.  The first few rows I planted have tasseled and now stand as tall as the lean-to.

We should be eating corn before too long.

I got through about 2/3 of the garden before I wore out.  I needed a dip in the pool and a little cat nap before I could tackle all that zucchini.  My plans for it included zucchini bread, quiche, blanching and freezing, and a batch of relish.

Before I went in for my rest, I went out to peak at our newest additions who were having supervised bath time with mom in the coop.

These sweet little two were born while we were gone and don't have names yet.  They love the water, whether pool or pond.  When I approached their mamma was laying near the pool watching.  Seeing me, she was up next to them in an instant, quacking loudly to tell me to keep my distance.  She's a good mamma.

It's good to be home.  I missed our girls and our land.  We will get through the craziness of catch up... eventually... for now I'm just going to take a few minutes to watch some fuzzy yellow babies splashing and calling for their mamma.

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