This is one of my favorite times of the year: the first harvests are coming in. For greens, we are eating kale, lettuce, chard and good king Henry, New Zealand spinach, mache, minutina, and celery. All the herbs – parsley, rosemary, sage, etc. are ready. The malabar spinach is almost ready and it’s a lovely climber that is colonizing the trelises that the unfortunate peas never climbed (we had only a pound or so, the bunnies ate the rest). The potatoes – from organic potatoes I bought at the supermarket – are growing like weeds. So are the tomato vines. No ripe tomatoes yet, though.

I’ve also started putting up. Yesterday I made a pile of basil from my garden, our CSA and the Farmers Market and made 8 jars of pesto (to freeze). I assembled rhubarb from the garden with some from the Farmers Market and red currants from a friend’s garden and canned 8 jars of rhubarb-red currant preserves. I’m tasting the white currants in my garden every day to get them when they’re just ripe. There are also grapes growing, lots of them, but those will take longer. If all the little nubbin figs on our one remaining tree make it, we’ll have twenty or so figs.

The chickens are laying four eggs a day. And there are four of them. Toothless, who got injured and started limping, then getting pecked on even more ruthlessly, went for a spa at my friend Katharina’s place while we were away. I didn’t want my intrepid chicken sitters to have to deal with a bloody, or worse, chicken. Toothless has her own little coop there to relax and recover.

Tomorrow I plan to go into my hives and take a full super off the strongest one (which swarmed during the week we were away!). I almost fell over when I lifted it off: full of honey! I’ll add a new super to that one and also one to the less strong hive. Both hives are making new queens.

Speaking of honey. I am enjoying the raspberry melomel I made a little over a year ago. It is mellow and tasty and not too alcoholic.

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But where were we all last week? Hanging out with this crazy bunch…

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… in the rain forest of Panama!

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More about that in some other post. I need to go water the garden, because it’s dry here.

On the Summer Solstice we didn’t just demolish our Earth Oven, we did a lot more work.

I plugged the last holes (I hope) in the rabbit proof fence around the veg garden. We swept and tidied the backyard and patio.

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Amie and I planted the flowers we got from the garden center. A couple of pots of flowers is my only concession, each year, to annuals that are (gasp) not edible.

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DH also gave the kiwi a haircut. I like it wild, but he likes it more manicured. It doesn’t matter: in a week it will look all wild again. Oh, and those kiwi fruits I hoped were developing? They all fell off, possibly jettisoned by the vine because they were not pollinated.

Before:

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After:

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My friend and fellow blogger Kath did a garden survey and inspired me to do the same. It was getting a bit darker on an already gloomy day and everything is still covered in yellow pollen dust, but I managed to snap some pictures.

We begin with Amie and the little chickens. They are now 8-9 weeks old and are spending the warmer days in the mini-coop, which sits in the chicken yard, but I still bring them in each evening. Amie loves “training” them. In this picture she is teaching Jenny to walk straight. (Jenny, by the way, may turn out to be a Kenny – thanks, Kath!).

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This while the other three looked on:

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More chicken fun:

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More serious:

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Out of the chicken yard, into the veg garden. The first thing you meet is the bunny gate. Bunnies ate two whole beds of dry beans. Because our CSA box has so many greens and tomatoes, etc., but never any beans, I planted lots of beans. (The bunnies liked only the dry beans, not the haricots, so they’re still going strong.) They also stripped the new blueberry bushes. Those too I fenced in – pictures of that later:

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The giant lovage, the lovely poppy a friend gave me behind it.

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Sage in bloom:

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Elderflowers:

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Lettuce, radichetta, onions and kale finally taking off:

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Raspberries in the making:

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We took the plastic off the hoop house for cleaning and will only remount it in Fall to extend the season. It will be good to have it off for the Summer, so the rain can thoroughly drench the beds and I don’t need to fight the overheating in there:

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We leave the veg garden and go into the back, where only a few unripe currants are still on the bush. This year, though, I’m very happy with how the currants have grown, finally:

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The kiwi vines are already humongous and it isn’t even Summer yet. The females have flowers again, many more of them than last year:

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I hope Anna’s hunch is correct (at Walden Effect) that these Ananasnayas are self-fertile, because I’d love some fruit from these two monsters:

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Our grape vines are making tiny grapes:

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Yesterday Wayland Walks, a very active offshoot of Transition Wayland, arranged a long mushroom walk with author/adventurer/mycologist Lawrence, aka Larry, Millman (picture). It was packed with discoveries, learning and humor, as Larry has a great way of sharing his knowledge and is a fountain of mushroom lore.

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It had rained just before the walk so I had fresh mushrooms growing on the wood chips in my garden paths. I plucked one and brought it, and Larry identified it as…

King Stropheria, aka Winecap

Well. That’s the mycelium I purchased and then “sowed” in 2012 (blog post here) and that never materialized, where I had sowed them, at least. So I doubt this is that mycelium, but somehow that’s what was growing on these wood chips.

Larry called them “Grade B Edibles,” but he couldn’t dampen my joy. My mycology hobbyist neighbor had said not to eat them (she never eats the gilled mushrooms, as the majority aren’t edible). Larry would say: they might edible, but they might be the last thing you eat. But so these are edible.

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I plucked another one this morning and made this spore print of it. Wild!

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Over the weekend it started. The non-stop tiny patter-patter of black specks raining down from on high. You stand still and listen and it sounds like fizzing.

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We thought they were seeds on the patio, as much as possible under the umbrella, and didn’t think much of it, except : what fecundity! Billions of seeds!

Fecundity is about right! It’s inchworm poop! It’s these guys:

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Making this:

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It is covering everything. It crunches underfoot on the patio stones. When wet it stains brown.

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It’s not good to have so many inchworms, or cankerworms, in your garden. Not, IMO, because they get into your hair and clothes (and ears!), or ruin the BBQ or a drink left uncovered by adding protein, but because they’re obviously having themselves a banquet. So far only the big adult trees are their feast, but they’ll survive (I’m told). The as yet small hazels and the cherry tree are suffering too and them I’ll spray with an organic pest-repellent. Everything else seems fine, so far. I’m trying to find the positive side to this: this poop must be pretty good fertilizer, don’t you think?

I planted all the dry beans in between sprinkles of rain. The perfect day: overcast, a little cool, the promise of rain. All but three beds are now occupied: squashes, zukes and cukes and tomatoes, peppers and eggplants still need to go in. And potatoes.
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Today we took the floppy plastic off the hoop house. We want to re-bend the hoops, because most of them have un-bent themselves so much that at the top they meet in a point, which cuts into the plastic.

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But we’ll only do that next weekend. In the intervening week I hope the rain will soak those beds. After months of no irrigation, the soil in them is dry and dusty and there was no a worm to be seen.

While clearing the hoop house of all the stuff I had stashed in there that shouldn’t get wet, I found the beginning of a hornet’s nest. As I picked it up I found the queen attached to its underside. I quickly pulled the nest away from her and then ran off with it. Here is it: she had just laid eggs in it:
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Amie and I finally cleaned the seedling containers, then fired up the heat mat and the lamps in the basement and sowed seeds. We’re a little late. Last year I put in the first seeds on Feb 24. We sowed:

  • lettuce
  • mache
  • chard
  • kale
  • spinach
  • onions
  • leeks

I need to order some seeds: celery, parsley, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and collards.  For starters.

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This has been/still is a hard winter. It’s been one snow storm after another, with long stretches of below freezing temperatures.  Three weeks ago I caught a bug which developed into pneumonia – hence the silence here – and now that I’ finally up and about, Amie caught something as well. That’s how it goes. The winter was hard on the bees as well: all three colonies are dead of starvation in boxes still half full of capped honey.  They just didn’t have the chance to break cluster and move toward the honey.

But things are stirring. Before yesterday’s snow flurries we actually saw dirt. Then it got covered up again, but all that should be washed away by tonight’s rain and tomorrow we may see some outdoor activities. I plan to wash all the seedling trays and pots so I can start the basement garden. If I’m up for it, I’ll also clean out the chicken coop: there’s some good compost in there after months of deep litter.

A couple of days ago I (hot-water-bath) canned the sauerkraut that had been fermenting in big jars on my counter for seven weeks. I usually don’t can kraut as it pasteurizes it (duh!) and kills off all the good bugs. Still, I had too much of it to keep in the fridge, and as I’m the only one who eats it round here, I decided to reserve one jar for the fridge and can the rest.  I hope the canning doesn’t make it too soggy. I like it crunchy.

 

As gardeners we often don’t get to work in a field.  It’s a different thing altogether to work in a field than in a garden. There is all that space, sky, sun. You walk from one end to the next (diagonally, so as to get the most out of it) and throughout the soil is soft and pliable underfoot. There is also a lot of work, so in this field one gets to grow not just food, but community as well.  And of course, none of us being farmers, we also grow an attitude of adventure, a tolerance for making mistakes, a thirst for experimentation.

A lot has happened with the Transition Wayland community garden plots. We began with two weedy plots, pulled all those weeds, rototilled it, then sowed heaps of dry beans. The beans came up beautifully, and we watered and weeded, and then they were eaten, probably by the bunnies. The weeds then took over and we pulled and mowed them, then sowed buckwheat as a smother crop and soil conditioner. While that took in about 50% of the area, (the rest became weeds), growing to shoulder height in some places, we decided to not grow grains there but to turn it into a permaculture (perennial) garden.

This was the state of the garden on Monday:

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Friends brought a weed whacker (we couldn’t locate a scythe) and a rototiller and two hours later it looked like this:

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Today – in the surprisingly hot sun – we evened it all out, raked out some more of the straw, then sowed winter rye. Everyone got to throw up those smooth seeds in great arcs of fecundity!

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Here’s a close-up of the intrepid farmers:

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Aren’t they just silly?

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