Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Garden update

Alright, folks, it's been six nights since the deer. That is, six nights they've stayed out. And six nights seems to be about where their courage level is, because they stayed out six nights before and then, on the seventh, summoned the temerity to destroy my fence and come through. I have reinforced the fence since then, but still. Tonight is a bit of a high-stakes game.

I just harvested my first skinny handful of sweet little green beans last night-- the latest ever-- and am hoping oh, so hard that the regrowth the plants have put on in this reprieve between grazings isn't about to be undone. 

Meanwhile, we are about to have cucumbers. Meanwhile, we are getting lots of zucchini, and my first winter squash blossom is about to open. I am picking raspberries every single day, and I swear they are ripening just as fast as I can pick them. Like, I work my way down the row with my picking bowl, and I turn around and some of the pale pink ones have made their way to red-purple in the blink of an eye. I am freezing them and eating them and letting Patrick graze them and Monday night I brought a few quarts out to my parents' house to serve with maple syrup, whipped cream, and granola, and that was just TO. DIE. FOR.

Meanwhile, the progress here continues. I am realizing we are going to need to replace our back door before work continues here, because taking the time to apply pretty new paint over the total hack job of a door frame that's there just doesn't make sense. The back corner of the house is where the work got rushed, or the bank account got thin, for the folks who did all these renovations before we came. It's also where the roof has been leaking, persistently, despite new flashing and sealant up above, for two years. 

It's coming to me that persistent leaks and persistent deer are the two defining adversaries in my life. Ah well. What would life be without adversaries?

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday sweet

I love starting summer mornings with tea in the garden. Sometimes, I sit and pull weeds, butt-scooting down  the row, a little at a time. A few crabgrass here, a few purslane there. Sometimes-- especially in July-- I pull Japanese beetles. And sometimes I just watch the pollinators. The honeybees in the corn poppies, the wasps and hoverflies in the dill and cilantro flowers. A few hopeful bumblebees working the last of the raspberry flowers. It's the best time.

Yesterday morning, one of the village churches held its service in the park across the street from our house, so I got to hear hymns while I puttered. (Praise earth from whom all blessings flow...)

Later, I dealt with the harvest, shredding zucchini, blanching broccoli, drafting plans for arugula pesto-making.

I am getting eggplants this year, which is thrilling. It's my first-ever time growing them-- a total experiment, I just bought a four-pack and plopped them in the ground-- and though the leaves look like swiss cheese from the flea beetles, the plants are producing! Last night we grilled a mess of zucchini and eggplant and plopped it on grilled flatbreads with tomato, parsley, lettuce, and a tahini sauce. THAT was a fine summer meal, lemme tell you.

After the garden was under control, we took a walk.

A long, lazy Sunday-kinda walk, which included fording a creek because one of the main road bridges is closed. Oh, excitement! And then we got back, set up the lawn chairs and the stereo on very very low in the garage, and got a bit tippled. The perfect Sunday.

Yes, indeed.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

The Creep

Woo, Phish was fun. I always enjoy the quote-unquote "lot scene" more than the actual show, because to me, the people watching is the best part. The t-shirts with the Phishisms, the crazy piercings and tatoos, the inside jokes, the purple hair. It's not really my culture-- I like Phish, but I only know about seven songs-- but I appreciate how devoted the fan base is. Devoted and creative. Anyway, we made it back home safe and sound on Wednesday, and spent the balance of the afternoon and evening pimping my garden fence.

I've decided I'm the star of a new reality TV series called Pimp my Fence. Pimp my Fence, Extreme Edition. Just when everything was starting to regrow, they got in Sunday, Monday, Tuesday nights. Boom, back to ground zero. (Really, it's just the beans. But the beans are so important to us, such a major staple. And I planted a LOT of beans, and I was counting on them.) So, another $130 for wire, vinyl-covered cable, and 36 8-foot-tall furring strips. And another four hours spent drilling, stapling, winding, tensioning. OY. They stayed out Wednesday night, and they stayed out Thursday night, but I am not taking any chances. I have ordered a quart of Deer Stopper concentrate, even though I tried the stuff three years ago with only limited success. But that was pre-fence. I am hopinghopinghoping that fence + Deer Stopper = hallelujah. 

And meanwhile, there is the house exterior. Something I can count on. Something that doesn't get eaten overnight. It doesn't bloom overnight either, like the garden does (where it isn't being eaten) but it is less vulnerable to setbacks than the garden. So it is getting me through. This week we had perfect clear cool mornings, and I made some definite tracks. Trim primer, siding primer, and trim paint all went up on the top quadrant there.

The part in the peak I just left primed because we're going to cover it over with fish scale, to make it match the front. See here?

The job is not easy-- especially tearing off the vinyl soffiting and starting that first stiff layer of aluminum a-peeling, and getting covered with the most awful gross brown dust comprised of rotting wood, wood pulp, squirrel poop, and dead bugs-- but oh, it is satisfying. And it's going a lot quicker this year, now that I know exactly how to plan each day's "attack."

So, that's where I'm at. Deer vigilance, house progress, fielding cubit-long zucchinis every evening (the deer don't touch squash). Having a yard sale this weekend for Community yard sale day, and hoping to start tiling the kitchen backsplash soon. Man. And a gin and tonic in a squishy chair would be awfully nice, too. Yeah. That will be the thing.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Scenes from a summer weekend

I had such a lovely weekend. Live music two nights, black raspberry frozen custard for lunch yesterday, walks with Del, serious weeding Saturday afternoon, pesto making Sunday afternoon. Deer that were staying out. Plants that were regrowing.


Patrick has a directive tonight to buy 215 feet of CHAIN, because something out there has to be unbreakable, unbiteable, right? I just can't believe they broke 18 gauge wire. 

Sigh. It's always something, isn't it? Someday I am going to figure out a permanent solution, and then that will be that. I just can't believe that they stayed out all last year (and it was glorious!) and now somehow they're getting in. False hope is such a cruel thing.

But anyway. Tomorrow we are going to see Phish, in Canandaigua, and I just need to let it be. Let it be, let it be. There will be time for fixing fence when we get back, if somehow the chain doesn't work. 

But it will. Right?

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The deer and the damage done

Oooh, it is so hard to be fighting demons you thought you'd beaten for the last time.

But of course, with homesteading there is never a "last time," because those critters are working just as hard and fast as you are to outsmart your every last line of defense. 


They stayed OUT, last year. ALL last year. But not this year. One morning I woke up and the fence was broken-- maybe from a storm, or maybe the deer snapped it. But either way, they took advantage of the break, and were able to learn what was inside this wonderful Eden of mine. A friend called it a "candy bowl." Exactly. The next night, they came back, with friends. And the night after that. Admittedly, I was a little slow on the uptake. But in the beginning, I had confidence that just repairing the old system was going to do the trick. Not so. Once they learn what's inside, they work harder at getting to it. Little by little, my beans were whittled away. Little by little, all my green tomatoes disappeared. 

Sunday morning, I came in from a first-thing-in-the-morning check (after replacing all the wire) and pancaked onto our bed with a defeated howl. "Uhhh-oh," said Patrick.

Later that day, I attached 3-foot stakes to the tops of the fence posts, and ran twine all the way around, at two levels. That worked for a night. Then, Monday, one of them figured out it could break the perimeter wire and pull itself over the gate, under the twine. 

Tuesday morning was not a happy morning. After I'd built up those reinforcements Sunday, I figured I was done. Like, "if this don't stop them, nothing will!" And they were like, "Not not NOT!" So I spiderwebbed the middle level of twine with the top of the fencing, all the way around. And I stapled some fencing to the top of the gate.

I am praying that I have won the war. It does not seem that they can jump this high. And the perimeter wire does seem to slow them down-- they have to break that before they can do anything else. And I just replaced all the perimeter wire with 18 gauge stuff. And it is HARD to break! 

But, I'm rattled. My confidence in my system is gone. But after the confidence is gone, the learning can begin. Oh, these lessons. These sometimes hard and sometimes lovely lessons.


I am reminding myself that it is only July 9th. Many people wait until the 1st to even PLANT their beans, and, provided the &#%ers stay out for the rest of the season (this increasingly feels like a very tall order) mine have plenty of time to recover. There will be a crop. They did not touch the zucchini, or the potatoes, or the kale. (I might have encouraged them if they'd eaten the peas!) 

Cross your fingers for me, please. 

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Monday, July 7, 2014

A pretty spot


We had a fine weekend-- pretty mellow as Fourth-of-July weekends go. I went with Patrick to his all-day Independence Day gig, and watched fireworks. Saturday and Sunday I did yard and garden stuff, took it easy, got a little sunburned, y'know, good summer stuff. 

The dramas of the weekend were Del's hot spots-- icky awful oozy pussy things he seems to be prone to during the hottest weeks of the summer-- and the damn DEER, who managed to find a way into my garden. So our weekend had its moments of feeling daunted and grossed-out and irate (the DEER) but now, with an embiggened fence (update on Wednesday) and a lot of hydrogen peroxide and Gold Bond powder we have both situations under control. 

And I got to make Del an Elizabethan collar out of some blue-and-white ticking I had in the stash, and his poor self-pity face, when it's not making me sad for him, is quite hysterical. 

So anyway, instead of pictures of my bean-stumps (sobs and tears and tears and more sobs) or pictures of poor Del, I will give you pictures of my flower garden. 

This is the first year the garden itself is really starting to look good. I never realized how long a road "decent" can be when you start with a blank slate. Also, the depth of the bed is daunting. I've done lots of two-foot-wide foundation plantings-- those I can handle. This is a whole different ball game, and it's shady. 

But this was the before...

...and though the garden does look a lot better in person, in the pictures above you can see the snowball bush that's getting tall enough to hide our fuel tank fill pipe, and and the pretty leaves of everything, and the foamflower that's blooming against the rich purple ligularia leaves... oh, it is all so pretty out there. The two hydrangeas I planted on either side of the porch did not die, over the course of the long hard winter, and are now rebounding triumphantly. 

It certainly has come a long way from weeds-and-sedum-and-a-few-ferns-and-more-weeds, and that is satisfying. A total transformation.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014


I bring to you today slightly different view of garden from alternate garden-view window (the guest room).

Because this is view from usual garden view window (office).

We are overdue for a garden update, aren't we? This was the last one. TWO freaking WEEKS AGO! It was a different world back then, friends. Men were men, women were strong... wait. Wrong sentiment.

Women are stronger now, because women (namely woman) are dealing with a gallon of peas every damn day. I haven't done anything with any of the glorious greens I've grown, other than an occasional salad, and I sent ALL my garlic scapes home with last night's dinner guests, because the peas are keeping me so busy. 

But I pause, still. I pause nearly every day, en route to garden, and say WOW, look at this little patch of glory today! This fun jumble of stuff that was pink and yellow last week, and now is coming on red and white, as the poppies bloom amid the ripening currants. 

And the lamb's ear blooms with blood-red dianthus behind it.

It is the loveliest. And other than pulling weeds (there actually aren't many) I haven't done much out here. It's a free and easy kind of flower garden. Just perfect. The swarms of bees and butterflies and beneficial wasps agree. 

Then, we get to the edible parts.

But I keep getting waylaid by the poppies.


These red and purple corn poppies were always strewn around my mom's garden, growing up. She mostly let them grow where they self-seeded, meaning there were always a few dozen popping up amid the potatoes or the green beans. Poppies popping. When we moved to Gilbertsville, she gave me some seed she'd saved. Then I bought seeds for catchfly, and scarlet corn poppies, and now everywhere there are flashes of red and magenta in the potatoes, the beans, the dill. As it should be. It keeps the whole thing from looking too serious.

Everything is doing well out there. The tomatoes are maybe a little behind the beat, though the Early Girls all have green fruit. The potatoes are rocketing. The viney things-- damn, every day I come out there and things are practically unrecognizable. I swear the cucumber plants have doubled every day this week so far. I need to figure out a method to trellis my beans, and fast. I built one Monday night, but it collapsed in last night's thunderstorm. Ploosh. Soon I will be fielding zucchini.

It's the time of year where my feet are still on the ground, but just barely. This is what I told Patrick the other night. The garden is like this incredible, irresistible hot air balloon that pulls me away from being "in the moment" for a few months every year. Or maybe it pulls me into being in the moment: the moment of picking green beans, the moment of shredding zucchini, the moment of stacking bags of broccoli in the freezer. Either way, I'm on deck for a flight to the realm of High Summer Scramble, picking-canning-freezing flurry. It's not a bad place to be. Every year I look forward to it. Every October I look forward to slowing down. So it always is, so it will be.

The certainties of gardening. Just another reason I love it.

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