Sudbury River at Saxonville – close enough

Its raining, again. Third rain storm of the month. Governor Patrick asked President Obama to declare my county (among others) a disaster area, and he did. “My” river, the Sudbury River, is overflowing onto already well-saturated grounds, flooding roads and basements. As for us, we’re up here on our hill and have no water trouble. The part of the front yard at the bottom of our hill that is flooded is destined anyway to become a seasonal pool or permanent pond.

The only rain trouble would be of the mood, but how convenient it has been, that the rain has been coming down on weekdays and that on weekends the sun has been shining. Last weekend left the inside of the house sorely neglected, but now I’ve caught up, having vacuumed, done and folded a mountain of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, dusted. In the basement I finished putting the final coat of paint on the hive, and primed the room that will become a library/study and (in a pinch) a third bedroom on one side, a storage and cold room/root cellar on the other. Also in the basement I watered the seedlings – they’re getting thirstier by the minute – and wished the rains would stop, so I could transplant some out, to make room for potting up others.

I look out and still it rains.

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While hacking out a stump in one of our “wild” side gardens, we scared this (harmless) garden or garter snake. He, or she, was very defensive, striking out several times and unwilling to leave the spot. So we left. Amie understood: it’s the snake’s garden too. In any case it brought home the importance of raking the leaves in the more oft used gardens.

And that’s exactly what we were doing.

We were outside all day long, from 10 to 5, we even had our quick lunch out on our new patio. The weather was chilly (in the 40s) but sunny, and we were hot from working hard. We got rid of some piles of stones in the beg garden, opened up the fence for better access to that garden, but mostly raked leaves in the back yard, where the kids play. Witness the huge leaf piles in the corner (it grew even larger after I took the picture).

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The stone ring in the foreground was here when we bought the house and we love it. Wild irises grow in it in Spring. Haven’t see any popping up yet. But the peas are germinating! We also collected heaps of pine cones for kindling or hopefully for burning up in my (bee) smoker.

We also booked our lumberjack neighbor to take down four spindly pines in this back yard. He’s giving us a good deal because he won’t have to dispose of the (useless) wood by chipping it or dumping it. Instead we’re going to use it to make a little log house later on, for Amie.

DH did some dumpster diving in our neighbor’s discarded wood dumpster and surfaced with a nice Atlantic cedar log, the perfect size for a gate post. And the Mountain Laurel I put on Freecycle wasn’t a Mountain Laurel, but a Japanese Andromeda. The Freecycler took it anyway. Now I have room for depots, right next to our parking lot.

And now I am going to sleep, because I. Am. Exhausted.

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tomato seedlings and lovage

I’ve been trying to get hold of comfrey – for compost. Neither Fedco nor Johnny’s carry the seeds, and the seeds I’ve found are expensive: $4 for 10, plus $3 shipping! I don’t think so.

So I put a request for a mature plant on my local Freecycle and within 12 hours had a response. I also put the big Mountain Laurel that’s in the  way of my depots on Freecycle. Within 12 hours had no less than seven responses. I’d rather see this bush get a new home than cutting it down.

In the basement we’re still at full capacity because this crazy weather – in the upper 50s yesterday, melting snow today – has delayed the transplanting of lettuces, kale, chard and spinach. This weekend, hopefully, I can make the room and I start a whole slew of tomatoes and peppers for friends.

The seedlings are all doing well. No signs of damping off, even though I haven’t been generous with the ventilation this year. I just watered all of them and they slurped up about 10 gallons of (filtered) water.

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Seed pod still stuck on spinach seed leaves

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The seedlings are neglecting their seed leaves. Some have already fallen off.

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Irises (probably) in the back yard

While I was spending money anyways I went ahead and ordered, from Burnt Ridge:

  1. 2x ANANASNAYA FEMALE HARDY KIWI
  2. 1x MALE HARDY KIWI /POLLINATOR
  3. 2x  PAW PAW
  4. 2x YORK ELDERBERRY (canadensis)
  5. 2x SOCHI TEA (Camellia sinensis)
  6. 1x BARCELONA HAZELNUT (Corylus avellana)
  7. 2x BUSH HAZELNUT (Corylus americana)
  8. 1x GAMMA HAZELNUT (Corylus avellana)

I would love to also get a ROSA RUGOSA – a rosehip bush – but the ones I’ve found so far are too expensive… The kiwis will go on trellises near the front balcony and in the vegetable garden, and the paw paws I’ll place on the edge of our “forest” on either side. So these won’t take too much work and won’t be in the way of the big works down up front. The hazelnuts, though, will have to go along the path up front, and the tea plants… I’ll figure it out eventually!

Tomorrow I’m ordering 14 cubic yards of composted cow manure – as much as the truck can hold – from Great Brook Farm in Carlisle, MA. It’s a great deal and it won’t be littered with stones and cement pebbles like the “compost” I got last time.

Mm, came home this evening from our last beekeeping class to a house smelling of pizza homemade by DH. In return I can tell him all about making that mead…

I went ahead and ordered the following from Nourse Farms, here in MA (I’m so happy to get them locally):

  1. 4x Blanca white currant
  2. 4x Rovada red currant
  3. 4x Invictus gooseberry
  4. 4x Hinnonmaki gooseberry
  5. 25 Purple passion asparagus plants
  6. 2x Samdal elderberry
  7. 25x Honeyoye strawberries

All of these will go into places that are either settled (beds) or will need only a little work to be prepared (backyard fence). I held off from ordering bushes that would have to go up front, because I don’t know if we’ll get that area ready by the time they ship. I’m struggling a bit – in a (still) fun way – with the design, but I’ll have to get it, and my orders, down soon.

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The skies are clearing after two more days of rain. It’s going to be dry and rather warm (high 50s) until Thursday night, and on Friday we’re expecting snow, followed by a hard freeze (15F!) that night and the night after (27F). After that, on Sunday, daytime temps of 53F again. What a roller coaster! Should I wait to put in the fava beans and spinach and chard seedlings (these would be under Agribon and I could add plastic)? I’d hate for the spinach to bolt again.

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Sowed inside (now we’re a full capacity)

  1. Jewel-toned sweet bell pepper x 8
  2. New Ace Pepper x 6
  3. Purple Beauty Pepper x 6
  4. Habanero 6 x
  5. Diamond Eggplant x 6
  6. Safir cutting celery
  7. Redventure celery
  8. Ventura celery (resowed celeries, a bit late, to make up for mouse predation)

In flats outside in coldframe:

  1. Blue flax
  2. White Yarrow

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On this rainy morning I potted up all the tomato seedlings that were spared by the 12 mice I’ve caught so far. I love that tomato juice smell! I used peat pots and Burpee’s coconut fiber seed starter and so far I give it a thumbs up. It’s a good thing I left room for two flats because these babies needed all that space.  Except for a tray’s worth of room on the heat mat we’re at full capacity.

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You may recall that last Summer I contacted the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture about growing Ribes on our property.  He told me that I would need a grower’s license, which is a pain to apply for, and anyway the variances from white pine stands will probably disqualify our location. I asked about gooseberries, and he said this law applies to all ribes.

So I gave up.

Just last week a friend did some further probing and found out that it is only black currants that are banned. Red and white currants, as well as gooseberries, are allowed in most towns in Mass., except for certain towns on this quarantine list. My town is not on the list – neither is his. I called up Nourse Farms (in Deerfield, Massachussets) and they said that, yes, there is some bureaucracy involved, but it will not hold up my order if I make it soon.

I’m upset with the Dept. of Ag. It took me some calling around to find someone over there to help me with my question, and after I left him a message it took him another month to respond, only to give me this misinformation.

But I’ll let it go to enjoy the fact that I can fill up all of our shaded, ugly chain link fence with currant and gooseberry bushes. Now, which to choose…

We had a glorious weekend. After 5 days of noise and dust, the patio is finished. I’ll take a picture of it once the coming rains have washed it clean. The challenge now is to level the surrounding soil and clear it of stones, stones, stones, and to grow grass and plantings around it. I found that Home Depot has a neat little tractor for rent with a scoop, a leveler, a trencher and augers. It’s not too  expensive and it will fit through our garden gate. It’s on our list for the next rainless weekend.

The seedlings (except for the brassicas and spinach) went out twice for some sun, the first time in the diffuse light of the hoop house, the second time in the morning sun on our balcony. I also fed them (fish emulsion) for the first time. Some of them are ready for transplanting, but I’ve been moving things around on my garden plan and haven’t settled on a place for them yet.

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I also dug two more new garden beds (each 4 x 8′). The first one took 3 hours. The second one took about 10! It’s only the5 feet West of the first one, but the ground was full of glass, tree and other roots, marbles, small liquor and medicine bottles, broken tiles, and stones (bricks), stones (boulders), stones (slate).

In the picture below you see the operation. I dig half the bed, 1 foot down, dumping that soil on the other half. I place the screen (1″ and 1/2″ hardware cloth) over the hole and sift the soil from the other half through it. It takes some manouvering, especially in the end. That fills the hole, and for the bed itself (the extra 9″) I use the soil from the old potato towers and the excavation for the new patio (also full of rocks). It’s good not to bring in new (already sifted) soil and to use the materials on the property, but that material is quite a challenge.

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What was best of all was Amie making herself at home in the garden while I worked. Here she is, writing secret messages in her diary.

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