Gardening Archive

Sigh

Posted April 22, 2018 By Ruth

Yesterday morning, getting ready for work, making coffee, feeding cats…….reached across the kitchen counter to where Trouble’s food bowl sits on top of Apollo’s crate (yes, his crate is actually taller than the kitchen counters, a side effect of owning a really big dog)…….and slammed the side of my  head into the corner of the upper kitchen cabinet door that had been left open a couple inches.

Now, this was not, by any stretch, the first time I’ve done that.  I’m short enough that the cabinet doors are just above eye level on me, perfectly placed to catch me in the forehead if they get left open.  I’d actually pulled down a different upper cabinet door several months ago after I hit my head on it for the umpteenth time.  But this door was one that I didn’t usually catch, so I’d left it.

I didn’t initially think it was that bad of a hit.  Went into work like normal.  Except that by the time I got to work the side of my head was pretty sore.  By the time I’d been at work for a couple hours the whole left side of my face felt funny, and while my balance wasn’t ACTUALLY being affected it felt like it SHOULD be affected.  So I ended up leaving work early.  Get home, and it occured to me that I hadn’t put ice on the bump, and it was a definite goose egg at that point, so I dug out the ice pack, and after an hour of 15 minutes on, 15 off, the swelling had gone down some, and the side of my face felt much more normal.  In retrospect I suspect the swelling was pulling on the side of my face, and ear, resulting in the weird feelings.

Once I felt more stable I got out the step ladder and screwdriver, and pulled down the upper cabinet door that I’d hit:

These cabinets aren’t right next to the stove, so there shouldn’t be much  grease residue to cause problems, and I can live without cabinet doors.  Especially if it gives me fewer things to slam my head into.

Since I was feeling better at that point I decided I was going to take advantage of the sun making everything feel awesome warm (it was technically barely in the 40’s, with enough breeze to be chilly, but the SUN!  It was awesome, I felt bad for leaving work at that point, cause I’m sure they were slammed all afternoon), and went out to rearrange the greenhouse.  Partially so I could make space for the tomato seedlings and partially to actually check the pepper plants over.  And found that apparently I forgot to tell the peppers that we’re having a delayed spring this year:

That is a Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper, and a Cayenne Pepper, with good sized peppers on each plant!  Oh well, at least I know the greenhouse has been doing its job at keeping the plants warm!

The biggest tomato seedlings are now out in the greenhouse, some of them are over a foot tall already!  Average last frost for me is mid May, here’s hoping I can plant out not TO much later than that, or the greenhouse is going to be crazy.

Also, SPRING!!!!  While making my coffee yesterday not only did I see the Bluebird pair again, but I saw Tree Swallows!  Tree Swallows are straight up flying insect eaters, if they’re in town then it means they think it’s going to stay warm enough to have plenty for them to eat.  So cross your fingers!

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Weather

Posted April 20, 2018 By Ruth

The weather forecasters are holding firm in their prediction that next week we’re supposed to get a warm up:

 

So of course I woke up this morning to this:

 

While I’m aware that folks at various points west of me have quite a bit more snow on the ground that doesn’t make me any happier to wake up to a white yard.  I guess Father Winter is trying for one last gasp?  Or else every single weather forecaster is wrong and we’re all screwed…..

I started my tomatoes over the last couple weeks.  A few here and a few there.  Apparently the tomatoes really like the grow lights in my little grow tent:

 

I plan to move them out to the greenhouse this coming week, assuming the weather holds anyway.

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Speaking of cats…..

Posted February 28, 2018 By Ruth

So, those if you who’ve been reading here for a while probably remember that I’ve had issues previously with the folks in the house across the street, mostly due to their habit of letting their dog(s) roam (“but she’s a GOOD DOG, she knows to stay in the yard!”).

A couple years ago those folks moved out (I can’t remember if I ever posted that), and a new family moved in.  I was frustrated when I first spotted their dogs, but it didn’t talk long to realize this was a different breed of dog owner.  They don’t just allow their dogs to roam.  Its awesome.

Then, this past fall, they got two cats.  At first I wasn’t sure that they weren’t just feeding a couple strays.  But rather quickly realized that the cats were indoor/outdoor cats, so regardless of how it started, they are now definitely owned by those folks.

The cats, of course, roam.  And while the help at rodent control is nice, both of my dogs would be delighted to remove those two cats from existence.  Apollo because they trespass in his yard.  Arty because PREY!!!  Needless to say this has complicated taking the dogs outside, much to our frustration.  In addition there are absolutely coyotes here.  Quite a few coyotes, of the North Eastern variety, which are bigger, and wolfier, than the western coyotes that many folks are familiar with.  Few outdoor cats last very long here.  Especially ones who are outside after dark.  And these two are, in fact our confirmation that they were coming across the street came when I got ready to take the dogs out at about 10pm, and glanced out my front door window…..to find two cats peering under my front steps.

About a month ago, while clearing the recorded videos from the cheap security camera I have watching the driveway, I noticed a clip (taken only a couple hours earlier) of one of the cats coming across the front of the house, and down the driveway.  A check out the window confirmed a lovely set of kitty tracks  in the snow where he’d passed.  Following them back around the house I confirmed that the cat in question had been hunting in my garden.

Now, like I said above, the additional rodent control is nice.

But cats have a tendency of using garden beds as litter boxes, it’s a fairly common complaint in fact.  And even if these cats don’t do that, I don’t want them digging up plants in my garden, even if they are going after rodents.

While the deer/rabbit repellent is pretty darn effective against prey animals, my dogs think it smells awesome and want to roll in it when I first apply it.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the cats won’t be much deterred by it.

After looking at a few different options I think I’m going to buy a pair of motion activated sprinklers and (once things thaw enough) set one on either long side of the garden.  In theory one would cover the garden, but once the tomatoes get tall enough one won’t be enough, so I’ll just start with two.  Maybe it’ll help deter the deer too……

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This and That

Posted February 21, 2018 By Ruth

I’m hoping to return to work next week (Tuesday will be 6 weeks), I likely won’t be able to do my normal lifting, but I should be good otherwise.

We moved the automated cat feeder, again, and this time start feeding Trouble her canned food out of it.  This has significantly reduced Shadow’s interest in it, and has gotten her comfortable eating out of it again.  We’ll go like this for at least a month, and then look at switching back to kibble in it.

We had a huge February thaw this past weekend.  Temps in the 60’s, and it was 72 outside this morning!  Course, as I type this a front is sweeping through and temps are crashing hard.  Most of the snow melted, resulting in flood warnings everywhere.  We took advantage of it to set up my new greenhouse:

Husband did all the heavy lifting for me.  But now that it’s setup I can get my christmas lights strung in it and start monitoring temps.  I’m a little concerned about the bigger/taller space being harder to keep warm enough.  I guess we’ll see.  Average last frost isn’t till mid-May, so no matter how tempting it is  I really don’t dare plant out before then.

Pepper seedlings are coming along nicely:

I’ve re-seeded the ones that didn’t sprout, and rearranged so that the plants that were along the edges are now in the middle.  The soda cans are part of an online contest for a Facebook group I’m in.  To see who can grow the best pepper plant in a can.  It sounded like fun, and I had the seeds, so might as well!

Update: 4 strings of C9 christmas lights are holding it 30+ degrees over air temps.  I’ll take it.

Lets see……

Posted January 29, 2018 By Ruth

Been another busy and frustrating few weeks.  I will (probably) have a long post about what all has been going on (if I ever get it typed).

In the mean time…..

I got my pepper seeds started.  If all those seeds germinate we’re going to have ALOT of peppers next summer (yes, I know that was the point, but uhoh…..).  Tomatoes will wait till the beginning of April.  Last year I didn’t get anything started till the beginning of April.  The tomatoes were just fine with that.  The peppers not so much.  My two little greenhouses did indeed not survive the weather.  In pricing out buying new ones I discovered that I can buy a larger (with shelf space equal to just over two of the little ones) for cheaper than buying two of the little ones.  So……

 

I forgot to mention, back at the beginning of Dec, I broke another tooth.  That  makes two broken molars.  Not the furthest back tooth, but the 2nd to the furthest back.  I broke the one on my left side back, 2010-ish.  Clean split, front to back, the inside half snapping off at the gumline while I was eating a sandwich.  We did a root canal and a crown.  This time, first weekend of Dec, eating an egg and cheese sandwich from DD, the same tooth on my right side broke the exact same way.

Pretty sure I know the cause.  For one, my teeth kinda suck.  Every tooth has at least one filling, many have two.  Despite twice a day brushing.  Yes, I grew up in a town with fluoride in the water.  Yes, I had dental care as a kid.  The dentist even had  me use prescription (high fluoride) toothpaste for a while to see if that would help.  Didn’t make a difference.

In addition I clench my jaw when I’m stressed.  Not only when I’m awake, but when I’m asleep.  Discovered that after one job in particular tried to screw me over, and I ended up in urgent care with swelling at both hinges of my jaw and numbness radiating up and down the sides of my face.  I have a mouthguard to wear at night when I know I’m having issues.  And now that I KNOW its a problem I can usually stop myself from doing it when I’m awake.  But the tooth that broke in Dec has been giving me fits since all the way back in 2004, when, during a particularly stressful time it suddenly flared up excruciatingly painfully, and then subsided to minor hot/cold sensitivity before I could get in to see a dentist.  4 dentists (two of them specialists) had checked that tooth and not been able to find a problem, but in retrospect we’re wondering if I might not have cracked it way back when by clenching my jaw, and it finally gave up holding on.

I’d originally wanted them to just pull this one, and I’d decide at a later date if I wanted a bridge or what.  But it turns out that the roots of my teeth are abnormally long and deep.  It wasn’t going to be a simple extraction, it would require a surgical extraction, at which point I told them I’d go with the root canal after all.

 

First week of January, while driving into town to get the permanent crown fitted I spotted a small flock of Ring Neck Pheasants on the side of the road.  I’ve been seeing them in the area off and on since mid-summer, but of course never when I have my camera with me.  They were still there on my way back, so I pulled over and snapped a quick photo with my cell phone:

Just to have proof of what I’d seen.  Got home, snatched my good camera, and ran back out the door.  They were still there when I came back through the 3rd time:

For the curious, there were two females in the group when I stopped and got the cell picture (they were off the shot to the left), but I didn’t see them when I came back through with the good camera.

 

Not sure how many folks I have reading here with connections in BC Canada, but if you know someone that way could you please share these images:

This dog belongs to a friend of mine.  A family member was helping care for Inatci back in mid-Nov and was walking him using the flexi leash that was normally used for the smaller family dog.  The inevitable happened (please don’t use flexi type leashes folks, just don’t, especially for larger dogs) and Inatci has not been seen since.  She has followed up on every “large white dog” sighting she’s found with no luck.

 

I’m still having fun finding new things to do with my Instant Pot.  A friend recently posted THIS recipe, and of course I had to try it.  The resulting cream has a very strong caramel scent to it, though of course its far less sweet.  I put some in my coffee this morning and I like it quite a bit, though I think the baking soda tang may be coming through more than I want.  If I understand things correctly the baking soda is more for color than flavor, and I may try it without the next time I do it.  I also intend to try whipping this into whipped cream with some sugar…..

 

Someone (elsewhere) asked me to describe what sub-zero(F) temperatures feel like.  I have no description.  But I can tell you that it’s so cold that when temperatures finally rise to single digits ABOVE 0(F) it feels like a freaking heat wave, and temperatures in the teens with the sun out make you want to ditch the winter gear.  THAT’S what sub-zero feels like!

 

Lets see….

Posted January 7, 2018 By Ruth

Christmas at work was typical big box Christmas.  I really don’t understand the fascination with glitter and fake snow on everything.  It gets EVERYWHERE.  I sure as hell don’t want to ever have to vacuum the house that has that sort of holiday decor.

Apparently the cold temps back in the fall were a warning.  We’ve been running at not quite record breaking cold temps since the day after Christmas.  The same day I woke up and discovered that our furnace wasn’t running.  The furnace problems turned out to be the result of water in the line (it was POURING rain the last time we got fuel), and was an easy fix.  The cold temps not so much.

The big storm that ran up the East Coast didn’t do much to us, a couple inches of snow.  But it sucked weather across the Great Lakes in its wake.  Areas not to far from me got upwards of a foot of snow and temperatures dipped too damn close to record breaking cold.  Yesterday, Saturday, it was -1(F) as the official temperature when I left the house for work, with a “feels like” temperature of -23(F) thanks to windchill.  For you Celcius folks that’s -17.7 and -30.5.  Its supposed to warm up this week, cross fingers!

I did take advantage of the cold temps to smoke some cheese.  Cheese has to be smoked at temperatures below 90(F) or you risk melting the cheese.  Temps below 80(F) are preferred.  This normally requires special equipment, but by propping the door of my electric smoker open a couple inches I was able to maintain ~40(F) and still get decent smoke in the body of the smoker.  The cheese has been vacuum packed and we’re slowly working our way through it.

I’ve been working on my garden planning for this year, and putting together an inside grow tent with proper lighting to get seedlings going in.  The garden is going to be mostly tomatoes and peppers this year.  Carrots, lettuce, and a couple tires of melons and cucumbers, and that’s pretty much going to be it.  Course, just as I got the garden plan set and seeds ordered BOTH seed companies I ordered from included a packet of free seeds in the orders.  Which is normal.  What’s not normal is that both free seed packets are for varieties of black tomatoes (our prefered type) listed as “great for sauce”.  Since sauce is the main point of me growing tomatoes I promptly had to re-work the garden plan to fit at least one tire’s space worth of each in the garden to try.

Post summer garden thoughts

Posted October 15, 2017 By Ruth

Last summer I massively over planted tomatoes.  I made SO MUCH sauce that I thought we’d never finish it all in a year.  I made ketchup.  I gave away tomatoes, sauce, and tomato puree.

Yesterday, in a quick freezer survey, I realized there are exactly TWO! jars of sauce left from last year.  Wow.  But then it did taste ever so much better than store bought, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Heck, we hardly made pizza too, so most of it went into chili, and marinara, and the like.

I’ve got a pot on the stove right now simmering down most of this summer’s tomato harvest.  After the bounty that was last summer I deliberately under planted tomatoes this year, and then with the screwed up weather we didn’t get as many per plant as usual.  I figure I’ll get 5 or 6 jars of sauce from this years harvest if I’m lucky.

So I guess next summer I’m going to have to “over plant” tomatoes again.  Probably want to kill myself by the time I finish processing them all, but obviously the sauce is worth it.

We’ve still not had a real frost here, though all that’s left in the garden is onions, carrots and covered hot pepper plants.

The Oxheart carrot is getting added to my regular carrot cycle.

We never did get a ripe Green Nutmeg Melon, the one I picked when the vine was dying back smelled really good, but either wasn’t as close to ripe as I’d hoped or else they don’t taste like much.  I’ll have to decide if I want to try them again or not.

The White Leopard Melons are worth growing again.

I’m going to give up on the Melon Pear fruits, even cages the color change to ripe is still very subtle, and the couple I picked I wasn’t a fan of the flavor (but heck, I’m still not sure they were fully ripe).

The corn failed miserably, but I’m pretty sure that had more to do with a combination of things than anything specific.  I’ll try it again, but maybe not next summer.

I was discussing with Husband the possibility of trying a variety of hot peppers again, mostly for the heck of it.

Maybe just go really basic next year.  There’s a different variety of cucumber I want to try, but otherwise just do tomatoes, and hot peppers, and carrots, and a couple melons…..will have to see what catches my eye as I browse catalogs I think.

As I was putting down the plastic sheeting to smother the weeds it occurred to me that now that I have the soaker hoses for the garden watering there’s no reason I couldn’t leave the plastic in place next year and just cut holes to plant stuff in.  With the soaker hose run under it the plants would get plenty of water and the plastic would do wonders to help keep the weeds down.  Might have to try it.

Fall in Upstate NY

Posted October 5, 2017 By Ruth

So, last post was on Sept 18th.  Sept 27th (Wednesday) we broke high temp records.  Sept 28th temps crashed, and we had several days of barely making a high of 70.  Yesterday, Oct 4th, we had a high of 80.  Tomorrow, Friday, they’re predicting a high of 69.  Saturday its going to be 80 again.  Next Thursday the predicted high is 62.

At least we shouldn’t be getting a frost any time soon, based on current predictions.  We came close last Saturday night, but it didn’t quite happen.

I finished getting black plastic on the empty garden beds.  Put frost covers back on the remaining peppers.

Gave myself a lovely set of bruises up and down my right arm moving heavy stuff at work, but hey, no bandaids required!  I’ll take it.

The husband of a co-worker died unexpectedly, and I agreed to work an opening shift to cover for her.  My body still hasn’t recovered from the 4:15am wake-up.

Arty decided that he was going to play lapdog:

Not much else going on here right now.  Have fun all!

General update

Posted September 18, 2017 By Ruth

I pulled the frost covers back OFF the garden, summer has decided that we’re not done yet, with another two + weeks of 80degree temps.

Interestingly the hot peppers that I covered, even briefly, look better than the ones I didn’t.  Mind, its not a huge surprise, but the difference is noticeable:

 

Leaf Footed Bug damage:

Not the best photo, BUT, that is what that Jalapeno looked like when I picked it off the plant.  Pretty gross.

Notice the bandaid in that photo?  Apparently I’m on a roll this year.  Right before New Year I tried to slice off my fingertip with a cheese knife.  Then I tripped over the dog and broke my arm.  Then I sliced a finger open on a child safety buckle on a shopping cart (I never did find the sharp spot that I somehow caught either).  Then, while adjusting the seat on the new mower I sliced a finger open.  And now I’ve sliced a finger open while adjusting Apollo’s dog tags.  I have no clue.  Someone on FB asked if I have a medical issue with fragile skin, but after some thought I can’t see how I could, if I did I’d go through a hell of a lot of bandaids every day at work!

Speaking of work…..Christmas has shipped:

Its not out on the shelves yet, but it has started arriving in stores!

I made two batches of hot pepper jelly this week.  Both made up, some 90%, of peppers frozen from last year’s bounty.  Thank god I did so or there’d likely be no jelly this year.

On an interesting note, peppers that have been in the freezer for that long are much dryer than fresh peppers.  I know, duh right?  But I hadn’t considered how much that would affect jelly making.  Usually I end up with slightly runny jelly at room temp.  Not a big deal, it solidifies enough in the fridge.  But these two batches were trying to jell in the pan as I cooked them!  Next time I use long frozen peppers I need to remember to reduce the pectin.

And your daily dose of cute, and one of two reasons why you always check that rumpled blanket on the couch before sitting on it in this house:

A few garden photos

Posted September 10, 2017 By Ruth

This week I’ve started pulling up the dead and non-producing plants, deciding whats going to get frost blankets to convince stuff to ripen, and putting down black plastic on the beds in order to hopefully smother the weeds.

 

The only melon I covered was one of the Green Nutmeg tires, all the rest of the melons were either not far enough along, or already dying back.  Note to self, the Snow Leopards do not handle chilly nights at ALL.

The hot peppers are all getting these new frost covers that I found.  They’re designed for potted plants, and probably won’t protect from a full on frost, but warming things up a bit they look like they’ll do just fine.

Got a few Black Pearl Peppers ripened

 

Found ONE of the late wave of peppers I planted had managed to not only survive the summer but actually put on decent pods:

cross your fingers they’ll ripen before it gets too cold!

Discovered that some of the local wildlife are enjoying the warmth of the black plastic

 

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