around the place

What a difference a wheel makes. With a trip to the hardware store for a metal rod to serve as an axle and some bits of hardware for keeping the wheels in place, the chicken tiller was transformed from a clumsy, sort of dangerous PVC rectangle into a smoothly-rolling chicken-moving machine.


It really made a difference to add wheels. No more bouncing and dragging (possibly over chicken legs). Now it just rolls along and the hens barely notice. I highly recommend that if you have chicken tractor plans in mind, add a set of wheels to them from the start.

The girls got their first shot at the garden. They loved it. Especially dirt bathing.


Elsewhere, the sunflowers love the sun (me too when it’s reasonable).


And the tomato plants make me happy. But only a couple of ripe ones so far. I honestly do often think about how badly I wanted this time to be here when it was butt-freezing cold in February.


And after enjoying fresh corn on the cob a couple of nights in a row, it was time to put some into the freezer, along with the never-ending supply of wax beans.



still above water

It still hasn’t decided whether it’ll be a wash-out summer or not.  A week of fairly dry weather has calmed things down, but it’s raining again.  A lot of the cucumber plants aren’t going to recover from the first round.  And it makes for some amazing mosquitoes.

Before we head out again for another escape from relaxation, (camping with the family)  I picked the beans and the second head of cauliflower..


See you on the other side.

the garden of good and not so good

The sogging of the ground this last week inevitably has to have repercussions. Plants can’t sit in soaked ground for too long before showing side effects, and only Mother Nature can fix that.

One of my poor grapevines shows signs of sadness. The leaves are an unhealthy green with some brown areas. These are the same two year old vines that got whapped by the -20° temperatures last winter and only managed to resprout from their bases.

A couple of cabbage plants have wilted, something I’ve never experienced before. And the cucumber plants are on the edge of iffy. All of these plants are close to each other in an end of the garden that’s a bit lower than the rest, where it’s wetter.
But there are happy things out there too. I’m pleasantly surprised that the snow peas are still producing. Enough that I can stick a few into the freezer for a winter meal.
And it’s not surprising, but still happy, that the green beans are coming on.  I believe that slender, fresh-cooked green beans are my third favorite garden vegetable after tomatoes and sweet corn.  All things that absolutely can’t be replaced by their grocery store-bought counterparts.


My daughter is the co-manager of the local grocery, and last night she stopped by with two enormous boxes full of this season’s unsold seeds, which the store gets rid of after they don’t sell.  They were all from Burpee, and there were hundreds, if not thousands of packages.  I got to sift through them before they went to the local food bank where my wife serves as secretary.  What a rush.  (I wasn’t greedy, I promise, and I’ll donate some of the results).

Meanwhile, I decided to harvest the rest of the kohlrabi crop for freezing.
IMG_4800 IMG_4801
Later in the day I also decided that it might be safe to remove the fencing that I had put around the beans. My experience has been that the critters only chew the tops off the young, tender plants. I hope that holds true this year.

The variety in the middle of the picture (Maxibel) tends to get too tall to stay upright. It grows taller than most bush beans but it’s not really tall enough to be a vine. I’m trying rope between stakes for support. It’s a real pain digging around in flopped-over bean plants for the reward. But the beans themselves are so good; long and thin and tender.

And the carrots are finally getting to the point where they’ll start shading out their own weeds. I like that.


still twiddling

It all moves so agonizingly slow, the tomato wait. I should be happy that I have most of the garden in at this point, but I can’t see past tomato planting time. The temperatures flirt with 80° for a few days and then laugh and run back into the 40s for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the plants that mean the most to me, the homegrown tomatoes, sit under the lights and grow taller, a little lankier every day. Four or five weeks is perfect for them. The problem is guessing when the weather will cooperate more than a month before it happens.  The problem is that now mine are pushing 7 weeks old.  What was I thinking?

They’ll end up fine. They almost always do. But you can’t blame a guy for wanting to plant the stocky, bushy four week old plants rather than the teenaged six week olds.

Warm days ahead. But then in a week, two more upper 40s nights. To keep my hands busy, I dug some holes. Filled them with compost, worm castings, a few coffee grounds, a little peat to hold water in this sandy loam, a dash of Epsom salts and some eggshells. Now I have to make the decision whether to let the plants get a week taller or risk the weather.


As the garden comes to life, so does the hardware. The beans have popped, which means they’re at they perfect stage to be mowed off by fat groundhogs. I’ve learned that if you put aesthetics aside early, you have something left to please your senses and your stomach later.

So it’s time to drag out the bean thing. Remember that we had chickens so long ago that I cant tell you when that was? Well, I kept two of the walls of the old chicken pen, which has become my repurposed bean cage. A twenty-something year old investment is still paying off. It ain’t that pretty, but I ain’t that proud.


the magical fruit without tilling

I’ll admit that I’m skeptical of things that might be trendy or fad-ish. Old geezers get that way. Cranky and obtuse. But I’m not above trying something different in the garden, especially if it seems to make sense.

I’m not sure that no-till gardening qualifies as a fad. It’s been around quite a while, after all. Please don’t crucify me for suggesting the thought!  But I’m set in my ways, and my way is tilling every year and covering things up with mulch again. I like the process, I like the results.

Time to broaden the horizons. I kept a bed of leaf mulch in place over the fall and winter, and this morning the pre-sprouted beans went in.

Marked the row…


Grabbed my beans…


Pulled back the leaves and planted.


Very easy, and I don’t have any doubts that it’ll work fine. One concern I had was that the soil seemed more dense and compacted than I’m used to when making planting holes in tilled soil, not nice and fluffy. I suspect that would change over years of not tilling.

But hey, I’m trying to keep an open mind and find new ways to garden more wisely. That’s something, isn’t it?