September

No. I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth. No, I didn’t die. No, I haven’t been in the hospital or on vacation or anything. I’ve been, ahem, resting. Yes, I planted my backside on the couch with a stack of books and DVDs and have only done the basics (some cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.). My plan (if I had a plan) was to recover a bit, to restore some energy. But, instead of being energized I just felt guilty. (Think Proverbs 24: 30 – 34 – yikes!) Dave, on the other hand has been doing more than sitting around. He, along with help from Ben and David (Rowland) and Scott and Jay finished shingling the roof. It was a HUGE job that took him at least two weeks to complete.

We’d decided that we’d had enough of steel on the roof and chose to resurface it with shingles. When I say “we” I actually mean “Dave”. I have no idea why we decided to change the roof surface, other than the creosote from the chimney eats the steel and Dave’s tired of replacing it. Knowing Dave, there were several other, very good reasons to do it. So I’m content to say “we decided” and leave it at that.

We chose “Antique Black” as our color and I think it looks particularly good with the white trim and blue siding already on the house. With the cohesiveness of the shingles across the upper-roof line it is impossible to tell that the new part of the house is actually new. Okay, other than the fact that we have no front door or garage door. Besides that, I mean.

After finishing the roof, Dave called the gutter man (so many permutations on this running through my head –but I’ll resist) to have brand new gutters installed next week. Dave’s now in the process of cleaning up. The outside looks pretty good, but his garage (I LOVE that term!) is a disaster area. He’ll be spending several evenings getting it ready for winter.

Cleaning out the garden beds.

With September here, it’s time to say good-bye to the gardens (I’m not yet proficient at the fall season-extending techniques).  I’ve taken out all of the annuals, cut back the perennials, and am in the process of adding soil amendments (lime, manure, etc.). The guys built a raised raspberry bed for me and we’ve got it filled with ten canes planted in it. I think I want at least five more beds, three for raspberries and two for currants.

Putting together the raspberry bed.

After Ben and Dave built the bed and set it in the general area, I leveled it and started filling it.

After digging for about a million years, my shoulders and hands said, “Enough! This is what boys are for.” Please note the sweat running down my brow – also, my head is drrrrrenched! I do occasionally work hard. 🙂

During my “resting time” I foolishly did not pay attention to the greenhouse as I should have. We paid the price with an infestation of aphids that ruined the cucumbers and several herbs. There was no rescuing the plants, so I removed them and treated the area to get rid of the nasty little things.

The poor neglected greenhouse. Note to self: never, never, never, let one or two teeny, tiny, little aphids have their way. They WILL take over!

As an addition to our arsenal of kitchen tools, we purchased a Filter-Pro dehydrator. I’ve been soaking and dehydrating grains to grind for fresh bread. Did you know that you get more nutrition from soaked grains? I didn’t and I find it fascinating that it is so. The bread has a different flavor, too. Oh, so many cool things to learn about!

After drying the grain, I moved on to fruit: strawberries, bananas, kiwi and pineapple. Ben and David approve of my efforts.

Soaking grain for the dehydrator. I followed someone’s directions when doing this. However, the grain swelled so much that the jar broke. So, lesson learned. Don’t fill the jar too full AND place it at an angle so the grain has somewhere to move.

We really like this dehydrator. It has a fan, a timer and variable temperatures. It came with six drying trays and twelve fruit leather trays. I can add up to 14 more trays! However, I think we’ll be content with the six for now.

 

Since September 1st, Ben has been going out most nights to hunt for moose. So far he hasn’t brought anything home except some good stories. Like the time he called in what he thought was a bull moose, but in fact turned out to be a pack of wolves. That elevated his heart rate. Or the time he got lost and drove fifty miles or so before he got his bearings and made it home. Oh the things I enjoy hearing about WAAAAAAY after the fact.

Since I finished this last paragraph, hunting season has ended, at least the season around our parts. We don’t yet have a moose in the freezer; however, we do have a nice stack of filleted salmon that we are thoroughly enjoying. Maybe a moose will come later.

Picture taken in August. Where was this guy in September? Off living the good life, I suppose.

Renée

The Bloomin’ Gardens

 

Love, love, love this long line of color. Ahhh, it feeds my soul.

One week after Kaleb and Brittany got married the flowers decided to bloom. You can see from a couple of pictures of their wedding (see previous post) that there were a few flowers out, but if we had waited just one more week – whewie, what show! We are totally enjoying it anyway. The calendulas are the most spectacular now, and the nasturtiums are right with them. I thought that the sunflowers would grow a bit higher than they have, yet I like their contrasty-ish bloom size down amongst the calendulas.

 

Livingston Daisy’s – oooh! I like.

The pink and blue version of the nemesia – I really like the snapdragon-like flowers on these.

The Livingston Daisy’s and the little nemesias are giving a contrast in color with their very bright pinks. Some things like the tall sunflowers, the love-lies-bleeding and the lupine are slower than I expected. I am reminding myself that this is a good thing – not everything blooms and then dies all at once.

I only have about a dozen of these gorgeous deep purple poppies, next year I will be planting MORE! I think, too, I will put in some of the deep red variety; I think the reds will play nicely.

 

Music Box Sunflower, barely knee high. I really like these.

The deck boxes look lush, they are full of good things – and so is the greenhouse. We are eating off our bounty and I like it. I am making (mental) notes about what to do next year. When I meet success, my idea mill explodes. Dave is a VERY GOOD balance for me. He gently, yet firmly, reminds me that one of the main reasons this year’s garden is successful is because it is not too big. Yes, yes, yes, I hear him, so I’ll just keep a nice little file of good ideas for when we’re ready to expand. Again.

Pacing, balance, maintenance: words to live by. Words that aren’t part of my natural make-up. But, characteristics that God is working on in me. And Dave’s helping Him. Sigh.

 

The tall cherry rose sunflowers are taking FOREVER to decide to bloom. Their buds look totally cool though.

A blue, blue bachelor button – must plant more of these next year.

We cannot forget the fireweed – somehow God’s gardens always turn out better.

Bees are VERY hard to catch sitting still, about the time you get them in focus, they’re OFF!

Bright blue flowers that I must plant more of next year. This is an accidental volunteer from a couple of years ago – now to figure out what it is so I can get more seed.

This cranky little guy lives on the stairs and will glare at you if you get too close to him. He prefers to work quietness and solitude.

Lovin’ my garden. Lovin’ my favored life.

Renée

 

Goal Collecting

This “Music Box” sunflower is just thinking about sharing a little color with us.

I began “summer” by eagerly looking at my flower beds every day. All the little plants were so healthy and so happy. I just knew they were incredibly grateful to me for planting them, watering them, nurturing and taking such good care of them (except for that tiny little spill off the shelves, a long, long time ago) that they couldn’t wait to shower me with extravagant numbers of big, beautiful blooms. Huh. Well, it turns out that they weren’t all that grateful. In point of fact, they were a little miffed at me for removing them from the lovely warm greenhouse and tossing (!) them into the cold, cold ground; in the middle of May, no less. To their way of thinking, I’d left them completely exposed to the elements, which included hail AND a most annoying dog. So, they’ve been sulking … and putting down roots.

After weeks (at least two) of daily inspections for blooms I gave up  and turned to working on other projects, like sewing … and cooking … and cleaning house. As the days went by, I would go out every other day or so to make sure they had enough water and there were no weeds, but they stubbornly refused to offer any sign of blooming. Kaleb and Brittany’s wedding is fast approaching – I had to face that while there might be good foliage, there just weren’t going to be many blooms. So I made peace with myself and with the plants. And wouldn’t you know it, they’ve suddenly started putting out indications that they just might bloom. The nasturtiums are loaded with budding stems, all hidden in amongst the leaves. The calendulas and ‘Music Box’ sunflowers have buds, the peonies are cracking open, oh, so, slowly. Even the scarlet runner beans are showing signs of blooming. So I’ve abandoned my Eeyore-like predictions and am back to daily checking for color. There is no doubt that the peak color will come later in July – but I’m SO happy to have some color showing up for the wedding. Brittany keeps reassuring me that she’s not a flower person, she’s happy with what she sees. “Uh, huh, uh, huh,” I answer. The truth is, though I want it beautiful for Kaleb and Brittany, AND I want it beautiful for me, too. I’m defining beautiful as loaded with colorful blooms.

The tansy won’t show it’s yellow spheres for quite a while yet.

I have a bank of daisy’s just waiting to bursts forth.

Hmm, maybe I should think back to mid-May when I was so very enamored with the green bursting out of the ground and branch tips. Maybe I should remember that green is the color of LIFE. Maybe I should learn to be content with what I have, and enjoy the process of growth. Ooo, ouch “be content”, “enjoy the process”. Sigh. One really learns so much about oneself in the garden, wouldn’t you agree? I’m a collector – a collector of experiences and of things. I’m also extremely goal oriented. Maybe you could say I’m a collector of achieved goals. These attributes are not bad; my problem is that I don’t enjoy the process, nor do I particularly enjoy the goal beyond the momentary “DONE!” I’m always grasping for more, trying to get to the “I’ve made my goal, it’s done,” portion. But there’s ALWAYS more to get, more to finish, more to learn, more to do. Whew. I’m feeling the admonition from the Apostle Paul, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment…” So, here I am practicing contentment. …

Oh, wait, is that a goal?

The irises are blooming everywhere down in the valley – it’s nice to see it come in waves.

Looking forward to masses of nasturtiums.

The tiny little nemesias should give us some good low bits of color.

The Albion’s are loaded. Fresh strawberries on the way!

Renée

A Little Catch-Up Chat

This little guy has nothing to do with this post – he’s just cute. Saw him ambling across the driveway the other morning – I chased him through the woods, still in my bathrobe. Good thing we don’t live in town.

Where do I begin with the updates, garden, house, Dave, or???

Hmm. I’ll start with the most important. The house – oh, whoops.  Just kidding.

He mostly smiles.

Dave is improving. Slowly and painfully. I wish that I could say that he’s bounced back quickly; but that isn’t the case. Last week was very difficult. He had felt that he needed to get off the painkiller, so he reduced the dose then stopped taking it all-together. Within a couple of days he was really hurting, but he decided that he just needed to push through it. After a couple of days he developed a fever and felt absolutely miserable. The fever would go down in the night, but would return every afternoon. By the weekend he could only lie on the couch and quietly moan. I was increasingly concerned that he had pneumonia. We kept a close watch on his head wounds and could not see any sign of infection. He didn’t seem to have a cold or the flu; I couldn’t think of any other likely reason for him to have a fever. Though he wasn’t coughing his breathing did sound a little “juicy”. On Monday he called the doctor and got an appointment for the next day. They assured him that he did not have pneumonia and that the symptoms were due to his shallow breathing (brought on by increased pain). So he started taking the painkiller again and with the decrease in pain he was able to breathe more normally. The only good thing about his weekend on the couch was that it gave his neck a rest. Now at the end of another week he’s still struggling with the pain. When he’s up and working his neck becomes nearly unbearable, when he lays down his chest begins hurting. Catch 22.

But Dave doesn’t let any of this keep him from working. The ONLY day he hasn’t worked was the one full day he was in ICU. Even when he was so miserable last Saturday, he got up off the couch to stagger around outside for a while, then we went to town to get supplies. This week he’s worked every night on the house project. The boys and friends have been helping him.

It’s looking SO good!

Getting the bottom row set perfectly.

Sometimes he can’t quite manage a smile.

So, even though the house project has slowed down a bit, it hasn’t come to a standstill. As you can see from the pictures the sheeting is mostly on, the roof is up with plywood and tar paper. They are laying the groundwork for the siding by snapping all of the lines and setting on the trim. Once this is done, it should be relatively quick work to apply the siding. Dave will install the windows before they put the siding on the upper section. It’s going to look beautiful.

The lawn is greening up and the border is filling in.

The gardens are growing. I’m wishing for more warm days to encourage the flowers to grow, grow, grow and bloom, bloom, bloom. My hopes for flowers by the fourth of July are fading a little more each day. Oh well, it will still be beautiful and I know that it’ll look REALLY great by the end of July. Guess we’ll have to have a party or something then to admire them. Anybody want to come?

Yes, he’s climbing – gotta keep up with the tomatoes.

I’m still so pleased with the greenhouse. It gives me a great amount of joy to go in and pick handfuls of basil, parsley, thyme, oregano or leeks. I love giving someone an herb bouquet. If you visit me I’ll give you one. The tomatoes are ripening; we can barely keep ourselves from picking them all. But, we want it to look very lush for the wedding, so are going to leave them on the vines as long as possible.  Bright yellow blossoms adorn the cucumbers and the little fruits are lengthening. They, too, will be hard to resist over the next couple of weeks.

The deck boxes are growing slowly – we still need warmer temperatures. The herbs are doing better than any of the other crops. The tarragon and pineapple sage look the best, but the chives, dill, thyme, and mints are coming right along. I even have lemongrass that I’m hoping will flourish this summer.

I’ve given myself a challenge to use the herbs in most meals (can’t quite bring myself to toss them into the morning cold cereal). I made rhubarb meringue bars the other night and added basil to them – success! Tonight’s melon salad included tarragon and pineapple sage. Of course, every green salad gets basil, parsley and a bit of lemon balm added.

With Dave on the mend, the house project moving forward and the gardens doing their thing, I decided it was time for me to get on with sewing. Now seemed a good time to improve my skills – there’s nothing stressful going on in life, so why not? I had purchased some pieces of good knit fabric (read expensive) and decided I’d better practice the pattern on something a little less precious. It took me a week to figure out how to successfully sew the knit – good thing I practiced. But now I’ve got the hang and I’ve made a dress, two blouses and three skirts. I’m proud of myself because I’ve managed to get an extra garment out of each piece of fabric I bought. Right now I’m working on fitting a jacket pattern (for woven fabric). Having a dressmaker’s dummy (I call her “Ditto” ‘cause she looks just like me, poor thing) is making the process easier, but I’m really wishing you were here with me, Mom; I need your expertise on this. I think I’m going to have to make a practice garment for this pattern too. I really don’t want to cut into the intended fabric before I have all the bugs worked out. Like I said, this is a great time to be doing this. Maybe after I finish the jacket I’ll whip up a quilt or two (ideas abound); maybe even another couple of wool coats for Ben and Wyatt (projects I promised them last year!).

Or maybe not.

Renée

The Time Has Come

A very full greenhouse.

I knew the time had come to be brave.  It’s mid-May after all and the plants need to be able to withstand the rigors of an Alaskan summer outside of the greenhouse. Besides, I’m getting tired of hauling them in and out. Forty-four flats and six hanging baskets, moved twice a day, is work. My bum knee is protesting all the extra labor. (And I’m not even doing it by myself! My friends and the boys are helping me – or even doing it for me.  [Sheesh, what a whiner.]) So where did my bravery (and laziness) lead me? I left several flats out in the cold. I lined them up on the concrete apron before the greenhouse and wrapped row cover around them. The weather is still chilly at night, but it hasn’t really gotten too cold for over a week, at least, not here in our personal micro-climate. So I covered them and went to bed contentedly thinking about all the work I was saving myself.

White with frost!

Walking down the stairs the next morning I could see out the glass door that the lawn was WHITE with frost. Gasp! What!? In mid-May!? Ahhh, my plants!

No Alaskan is surprised. In fact, every Alaskan or former Alaskan reading this is laughing their heads off. We all know this: Don’t. Put. Your. Plants. Out. Until. Memorial DAY! I refer to my previous paragraph for my justification rationalization for doing it anyway. Many of you Alaskans have done the same.

Protective row cover – it keeps the cold out. Sort of. It does let light and water in.

It took me a while to get my courage up and go assess the damages. As I pulled the row cover off the plants the pansies looked up at me like the boys do after surviving some stu… death-defying ride down the hill and screamed “YAAAAAAAHHHHHHH, that was AWESOME! Do it AGAIN!” The scarlet runner beans looked up like girls (who are generally able to think through the consequences of their actions better) with shivering, terrified faces, “I th-th-think we’re o-k-k-kay. Can w-we p-please go back inside now?” The lavender had fallen to its knees and was crawling toward the sun, only to reach it and fall sprawling into its warming glow to soak in the life-giving rays.

 

Hardy pansies

Shocked Scarlet Runner Beans

Though they begged to be put back in the greenhouse, I planted them anyway.

Lavender

Give me sunshine or give me death!

The row cover was stiff with ice, but the plants (for all the complaining) were fine. Cold? Yes. Shocked? A bit. But, they’d all survived and as they warmed the runner beans and the lavender perked up. With relief and a bit of glee, I decided that it was time to start putting some of the stuff in the ground. I planted about a third of the lawn border yesterday. So far it contains: nasturtiums, scarlet runner beans, cherry rose sunflowers, white peonies, a dwarf maple, red peonies, white lupine and pink peonies.

Inspired by all my hard work I even planted the pansies into the boxes that will line our retaining walls. I was so into my work that I asked Ben to make dinner (he’d just gotten home from his own job) – I told him I wasn’t hungry and wouldn’t want to eat.  (HA!) But, strangely, I finished planting just as dinner was cooked and, sure enough, I was hungry. Thanks for the pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage, Ben. 🙂

Last night, I left several more varieties out (with row cover – I’m not crazy) and will be planting, planting, planting over the next week or two. Yipee!

-*-*-*-*-

For all my hyperbole, I knew when I set the plants out that I was risking losing some of them. At the same time, I knew that the row cover would protect the plants from all but the harshest spring freeze. I figured that the runner beans were the most vulnerable and they did fine. The lavender did surprise me with how wilted it looked in the cold, but as I said, it perked up when it got warm.  Though I had been thinking about leaving the flats out for a while it wasn’t until I listened to an on-line lecture given by Eliot Coleman that I got brave enough/inspired enough to leave the plants out. I also looked through my Master Gardener textbook for confirmation of what I wanted to do. As long as we are careful about using some sort of protective covering (i.e. row cover fabric, low hoop houses, etc.) we can get the plants in the ground much earlier than conventional wisdom tells us.

For fun: Eliot Colemean is the author of Four-Season Harvest and The Winter Handbook www.fourseasonfarm.com , and an organic farmer from Harborside, Maine, who extensively uses simple, season-extending techniques to harvest and sell organic produce year-round. His books are very interesting and informative; I recommend them if (at the very least) you are interested in learning how to extend your season. They are an excellent read even if you don’t choose to extend your season, but are simply interested in gardening.

Renée

How Does the Garden (continue to) Grow?

Digger Ben

Our gardening endeavors continue to advance. I’m getting into the routine of pulling everything out of the greenhouse and putting it all back in daily. (Actually – I’m getting into a routine of inveigling whoever is around into helping me move things in and out. :-)) Although a few plants are still a bit shocked at the sun and wind treatment, most things are looking pretty happy. I’ve noticed that their growth seems to have slowed down a bit – and for that I’m glad. Nighttime temperatures are still too low to leave the plants out without having to take season-extending measures, and even with them I’m concerned about a killing freeze. So, while we wait a few more days to let our night-time temperatures come up, we’ll give everything its daily sunbath and continue working to get the beds ready for the transplants.

looking southwest on the lawn

looking northeast on the lawn

Speaking of beds… Ben dug the big lawn border bed for me. We measured it and it’s only 157’ instead of the 200’ that I was expecting. I think this means I’m going to have leftover plants; no worries though, I’m sure I’ll find someplace to put them. 🙂 We’re going to lay soaker hoses in the trench so that watering will be relatively quick and easy.

Albion strawberries, happy in their terraced box.

We now have two terraced boxes of strawberries planted. Twenty-five plants each of the ever-bearing Quinault and Albion varieties. Ever-bearing means that they will set fruit on two or three times a year. Though the berries are grown as perennials Outside they are considered annuals here in the Interior of Alaska. The literature advises that I pinch off the first buds so that I’ll have a higher yield later in the season. Ouch! It is always so HARD to “pinch off” or thin, or prune. However, I must learn to take the advice and look for better results l  a  t  e  r.

Deck boxes are ready to be planted.

We haven’t planted anything on the deck yet. I’ve been waiting for Ben to get home. He’s my digger. He’s young and vigorous. He can manhandle the full wheelbarrow up the deck stairs much more efficiently than I can. I think it has something to do with being young, … and vigorous, … and a man. As soon as he has time, I’m going have him put it bit more soil into the boxes. Then we’ll plant all the salad seeds and then replace all the little greenhouse lids so things will be nice and cozy for the next few weeks. I like planting before Memorial Day weekend. It makes me feel tricky somehow – as if I’m pulling something over on the weather. We’re not being too cocky though; notice everything on the deck will have its own little greenhouse. And anything I put in the ground will be given a nice protective cover – just in case it does decide to frost again.

Renée

How Does Our Garden Grow?

April 17 – earliest greenhouse pic

In some ways it feels as though we’ve had the greenhouse open for months, yet, when I check the calendar I see it’s only been six weeks. I’m amazed at how quickly some plants grow. In March and April when we plant the seeds or set in the little seedlings I ALWAYS think, “There is no way this thing is going to grow large enough to fill this space – I really should plant more.” And I’m ALWAYS wrong! They do grow large enough to fill the space. Then in May when everything has gotten huge planting less next year becomes my goal. This year, however, we decided to extend our garden by planting a long flower border along the edge of the lawn. We need at least four hundred plants for this little project. Why would we do this? Two reasons: 1.) Flowers are beautiful, 2.) Our nephew and his bride will say their vows here this July.

Before Kaleb and Brittany decided to have their wedding here and we decided to plant a huge flower border, we’d asked several friends if they wanted to share our greenhouse with us. We thought it would be a great way to make use of the space, and spend time with friends. I told them that it would be easy. (Ha!) Just come over once a week, check the plants and water everything. I assured them it would only take them 15 or 20 minutes. It turns out I lied.

It takes FOREVER to water and check everything. OK, not forever, but a lot longer than 15 or 20 minutes.

Girls, I promise, I didn’t intend to trick you into this! I promise I was only going to plant just what we needed to for the greenhouse bed and the deck beds.

Well, that and the hanging baskets.

Oh, and the wall boxes.

Really, not that much.

Forty-two flats of flowers and vegetables, twenty or so pots of herbs and vegetables and eight hanging baskets later (not to mention the greenhouse bed full of tomatoes, herbs and cucumbers), I’m starting to get overwhelmed. I started hardening everything off today – that is, hauling every one of the aforementioned outside to get a little sun and fresh air. It took over an hour of steady work to get everything out and back in again. Not so bad – except I’ll do this EVERY day for the next couple of weeks. OY!

Getting hardened off – the daily sun bath.

OK, ok, ok. I’m not really complaining. Actually, I’m having so much fun. I love watching this stuff grow. And I’m excited to think about the beautiful flowers, vegetables, and herbs we, and our friends, are going to enjoy this summer. I’m also so happy to think about how beautiful it will be for Kaleb and Brittany’s wedding. All of the work is just part of my exercise plan – getting THAT out of the way while I have fun – how great it that?

Greenhouse – beginning of Week 6

Renée