Saturday, July 28, 2012

garden updates

A quick walk through some of the gardens yesterday. Things are growing pretty well with few bugs except the squash bugs. After getting very dry for a spell,last week we had about 14 inches of rain.As you can see in the video, the weeds and grass are growing very well. Life here is busy with it just the two of us keeping up, my school work, and manthing working.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

cutest critter ever!

 Saw this lil feller crawlin through the grass. I think it is one of the cutest things I have ever seen!! What is even cuter is that when it was frightened it shimmied n shook.
After looking it up I found out it is a caterpillar of the  spicebush swallowtail  butterfly(Papilio troilus). the caterpillars start out green and turn yellow or orange when they are ready to pupate.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

yay for rain!

Yay for rains!
The gardens were beginning to get a little bit thirsty  and since we have no secondary water supply from the pond at the moment, I was beginning to worry a bit.  After the rain  hitting everywhere but here over the last several days, it was  nice  to get a smidgeon last evening and through the night, with more on the way tomorrow.

 The gardens looked so much happier this morning  and should allow us to begin harvesting some cukes, zukes, summer squash, broccoli, and maters  within a week or so. The garlic, onions, and carrots will also be coming out shortly to make way for  other things and stuff.  I cannot wait as I am  sick of the flavorless semi fresh crap I am stuck buying  from the local markets that haul in their  produce from  Florida. There simply is no replacement for fresh, from the garden, veggies.

I had to cut the morning walkabout short but  here are a few pics of the beds up around the garanimals.   Things are beginning to look like a garden  rather than empty beds. I do not much care for the time period between planting and when things really start looking good. Another couple weeks and I will have my beautiful mess  back. The squash are beginning to run  everywhere and make the manthing's weedwhackin life more difficult.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

gone to the birds...

I had noticed over the past few weeks that we had a bird living in  amongst the  pea vines. This is not all that unusual as the Carolina wrens tend to build their homes anywhere they  find  a hole  and if they  cant find one suitable they  make do with most anything. Last season I had set aside  some nondairy creamer containers for projects  but they soon took them over and  made them home. We have had one nest in the outdoor kitchen cupboard  for  many years  and we have them in a decorative clay pumpkin down by the green  house and we have a  pair that actually live in the greenhouse.

The other day  when I was cleaning out the pea vines I  knew I had upset a bird as she dive bombed my head but I never found a nest down in the vines.  I moved the bamboo trellis  several times  while cleaning the mess not thinking that  this was where she had made her happy homestead.   After a short break I went back to work and when I put the trellis over the newly planted  black eye peas I swore I saw a bird fly out of it.  Yesterday while weeding  the remaining  rows I again bumped the trellis and got dive bombed, so I knew that indeed she was nesting down in the bamboo poles.  Today while down hilling taters, I  bumped the poles and again she flew out in a mad fashion. Since I had the camera with me  I decided to turn the flash on and see just what was down in  there. Lo and behold,  in two of the poles there are nests  filled with eggs.  So not only is the  bamboo a trellis but a bird  condominium. Can't wait to watch the lil fellers hatch and  fledge through the season.

  Here is another home for our birds. Yes, it is in the shack and on the book shelf.  The sliding glass doors stay open most  all of the summer months with no screen and the little darlings  fly in and out as if they live here. Last year one built in the same spot but it was under the blue  binder. I thought it was cool and just left the nest there. Apparently she thought it was cool too and came back again  this spring and built another.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

from the gardens...

This morning's walk through the gardens gave me favas, carrots, 3 types of salad greens,  green onions, garlic and onion scapes, fennel bulbs, rhubarb, various herbs, shiitake mushrooms and a couple lizards. No, we don't eat the lizards. I just take their pictures and let them go on their merry, bug eatin, way.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

how does your garden grow...

All the  gardens are now planted out except for the remaining tobacco. Early spring  crops will be coming out in the next week or two and will  be replanted with summer things.  The first corn planted is a couple foot tall and  many of the tomato plants have fruit as do the squashes. Everything else is slowly poking through the soil. My favorite time in the gardens is coming: when things grow  enough overnight after a good rain to notice a difference in everything and things  become a beautiful mess.

 The hot tub is again full with wood and leaves using  a bit of the soil we made in  the hugulkultur experiment. In a few years we will have another tub of  nice soil to use around the place but have  a fine growing spot in the mean time.   

Thursday, May 17, 2012

simple supper-deep dish skillet pizza

Last night manthing wanted pizza or pancakes for dinner. After some  internet bantering it was decided that pizza  was going to be it. Since I was not going to fire up the oven for a single pizza and my regular cookie sheet was dirty, I had to figure out just how I was going to make said pizza. After a minute or two of thought, it hit me!  Why not make a deep dish  pizza pie in the cast iron skillet.  It came out quite splendid though it was more like a pizza pot pie than a pizza since I went a little bit crazy on the dough making. 
 I made it just as I would make any other pizza: dough, sauce, and toppings. The only difference was what it was cooked in and how it was cooked. After making the dough, I rolled it and put it in the skillet, just as one would make a pie with the edges hanging over the pan. Then I threw the sauce and toppings on ( a garlic sauce with oregano, onion, tomato, chicken, shrooms, broccoli n cheeses) and  rolled the edges of the crust down  around the edges.  

To cook, I simply set the pan on the stove top with a few chunks of broken brick under it. This is to keep the bottom from burning and to allow the  toppings to  heat  properly and cook. I then placed a lid over the top  of the pan to keep the heat in and do its job.  I do  flat pan pizzas in the same manner but  I cook  all the toppings(but the cheese) prior to adding them on the crust since it cooks much quicker. 
 It  took about 25-30 minutes of cooking time. The last 10 or so was ensuring the crust  was cooked through. Like I said, the crust was a bit too much turning it into a pot pie looking creation rather than a pizza but it was still quite good.  The bottom picture is what it turned into though it was not a greenish yellow. The lighting just made it look that way.
Total cost to make was approximately  3 dollars (though a rather expensive meal for us  it is way cheaper than going to a pizza place or buying all of the ingredients to make one) and would easily feed four people. Had I made it on cookie sheets it would have made two pizzas rather than a single. Most of the toppings were from our own produce and leftovers from other meals.  Total time to prepare and cook was under an hour and that was having to chop all the ingredients, make the dough and sauce, and cook.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

tobacco time...

After getting the majority of the gardens in for the summer, it came time to begin planting the tobacco down in the holler.  We loaded up Azulita with plants, the tiny tiller, wood ash, fertilizer and chainsaw then  headed down the hill for a day of "fun."
Manthing tilled up the rows right quick while I  followed behind with the bucket of ash, fertilizer, and my handy dandy little trowel. After he tilled, I sprinkled some ash in each hole, threw a bit of  grow juice in  and set the plants in.  We do use commercial fertilizer twice a year for the tobacco. It is a very heaver feeder  on the soil and though we do not use chemical fertilizer on anything else we grow, we cannot keep up with amounts needed for the tobacco too.
The plants were a  tiny bit smaller than I would have liked but they did  have an excellent root system for a change.   Once manthing got my rows done he went off and collected  cook wood from dead fall while I planted and planted and planted.  About 200  plants were put in the ground and we still have about that many to go in yet.  Depending on the weather we may get them in this weekend. Tobacco needs to stay moist just after transplantation or they tend to die off to the ground. Planting just before a rain  or watering them in is needed.  As a side note, once tobacco has established   good roots it is very difficult to kill  off. It more often than not, will grow back  from  what looks to be a dead plant so  wait a week or two before replanting if you think you have killed the babies.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

traumatizing the mushroom logs

      Time to make the mushrooms fruit.  We are past last frost and the logs have been inoculated for a little over a year. To get them to begin fruiting they will be soaked  for 24 hours or so. It is also supposed to rain so maybe we can get by without having to flip them.  Once they come out of the water they will go back to their hidey-hole and be watered well a couple times a week (if it doesn't rain) so they can begin  fruiting.  In a couple few weeks we should begin harvesting from them and then we can  start the whole process again for the remainder of the summer.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

dehydrating herbs

The  solar dehydrating  season is in full swing.  The herbs are growing like crazy this  year so I am having to give many of them hair cuts early in the season. Today I  took an entire five gallon  pail of   trimmings off of two  small clumps of  parsley.  After washing and taking the stems out I was able to fill all three trays with  the herbs.

Up until this year all of our dehydrating has been  solar. Recently, a high school class mate offered me an electric one that she no longer uses. I could not resist as it will come in handy for when it gets too humid to use this one or on those days when we get our regular afternoon showers.  I will start the process in the solar  then transfer  it to the  electric reducing waste.   Here is  a previous post  on the dehydrator  as well as  some links to plans.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

catching up...

Sorry for such a long delay in posting. The manthing and I both  got the creeping crud after the last post and were completely down and out for two weeks.  Never in my life have I been that sick  for such a long period of time and I never hope to be again!

Last week, though we were both feeling much better, all of our time was spent catching up on things and stuff that we got behind on while ill.  Though we  will never ever be able to say that everything that needs doing is done,  we did get most everything back to a manageable  level of craziness.

 The greenhouse is emptying out finally and all that is left is a few tomatoes, peppers and tobacco. All the beds are planted but two and the tobacco patch. They are even mostly weeded, which is a rarity.  The last two days we got some much  needed rain to  kick all the plants into growing gear. The very early tomatoes I put out survived the two frosts in April and  are flowering  already and  a few of the volunteer squash are as well.

Early spring crops are already fizzling out due to the overly warm spring we have had.  We have had a pretty decent year for greens of all kinds and  for a change I was able to even freeze a few bags of peas.  We skipped out on spring cabbage this year  because we never have any luck with it but the broccoli is looking pretty good so far.   Our puny area of strawberries has given us a few snacks and  a couple meals of belgium waffles with fresh berries.  Today I was able to freeze some rhubarb to  make some chutney with  after  the next town trip.  It looks to be a banner year for  blueberries, grapes and blackberries but many of the fruits off the trees  dropped after the last cold spells.

 All in all it is looking like a decent year for the gardens. Hopefully we will have plentiful, but not too much, rain and warmth, but not like last year. Now all we  have to do is  teach these dogs  that bunnies are BAD, even though they look completely harmless, and  that they must be chased off. Heck, I will even allow them to eat them if they do.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

over the mountain and through the woods

We took a couple days this past weekend to go out and about in the local area. The video is just some of the scenery from while we were there. Pinhoti means turkey home in Creek.

Monday, April 9, 2012

the hugulkultur experiment-part 2

With the success of the hot tub hugulkultur bed we decided to try it out in a normal garden bed. For this experiment, we are using use an already established bed (of weeds) that we double dug when the manthing was laid off and we were on a bed building spree. This bed has not successfully grown anything (except weeds) since we dug it and began throwing amendments on it. It was also convenient because we had some piles of brush nearby, making our job (manthing's job) much easier.

The basic principle of hugulkultur is digging out a hole or spot and then filling it back up with things n stuff that will break down over time into a nice soil while having the benefits of water retention and a raised garden area. Our main reason for doing this is building healthier soil, since we try to maintain a closed homestead and purchase no outside fertilizers, soils, mulches, etc. We get over 70 inches of precipitation a year, so, water retention is not too big of a deal for us most of the time.
The process is pretty easy although it is a good work out if you don't have a mechanized earth moving contraption and live in mountainous terrain. This bed is about 14x5 and was a 2 (half day) job for one person. A young, in shape, person could probably do one in a day and live to tell of the experience. Us older folks have learned not to beat ourselves up when time is not of the essence so we tend to take things a little bit easier when we can.

Our observations thus far...

The dirt that comes out of the hole is very likely not going to be enough to cover it back up, especially if you mound it like most reference sites suggest. Be prepared to have extra dirt somewhere nearby that is accessible and easy to get to the new location.

It is a great way to use downed trees and/or brush and limbs from cutting firewood. But,it takes a whole lotta material to fill that big hole back up. Have plenty (more than you could ever imagine) of filler nearby or in a place that is easily accessible. For those that heat and/or cook with wood or live in an area where wood is sparse, this could be an issue and should be weighed before you decide to do digging massive holes in your lawn.