Rainy Season

It has been approximately 60 hours since it last rained here at Country Haven.  According to our informal calculations, that’s the longest stretch of dry weather we’ve had since mid-June when our three-week drought broke.  We’ve received over 20 inches of rain in 6 weeks.  That’s a lot of water.  A couple more inches are forecasted for tomorrow morning.

Blah.

We have repeatedly mowed between the rows in our gardens to keep the weeds down until it was dry enough to actually run the tiller through.  Potatoes are rotting in the ground, green beans are molding on their bushes, pepper plants are yellowing, squash plants are wilting.  I mowed down our first two plantings of green beans yesterday; the leaves were the color of lemonade.  Poor things were probably glad to be put out of their misery.  I usually have more than 120 quarts of green beans canned by now.  This year, I’ve put up twenty-seven.

And our pepper plants!  To get a better look at a growing pepper, I gently moved aside some of the spotted, yellow leaves on one of the scrawny plants, and three of its leaves dropped to the ground, reminding me of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.  Poor, pitiful thing!

Fortunately, we planted way too much of almost everything, so it will be enough to have something every week until the first frost hits.  We keep re-planting, too, using next year’s seed that we bought to save shipping costs on next year’s garden.  I don’t know if this amounts to optimism or foolishness; time will tell.

In spite of the tendency to focus on all of our loss this year, I cannot help but be thankful for all that we have.  In some parts of the world, these conditions would have a direct and possibly dire effect on the nutritional needs of the growers.  We are so fortunate that this is not the case with us.  Even without having the extra produce to can and freeze for the winter, we can rest assured that our bellies will be fed nonetheless.  And, without the extra income that we hoped our abundant harvest would bring, we know that our bills will still be paid.

What a blessing.

Parmesan Herb Crostini

With all of our garden greens, we’ve been eating a lot of salads around here.  There are so many ways to make a salad that my hubby and I really don’t get tired of them.  Some of my kids, however, quickly tire of any salad which does not have lots of bacon–which is almost every salad we make around here!  I thought that serving these crunchy little crostini on leftover French bread with our next salad might be a good way to hold off their total salad burn-out.

1/2 c. olive oil
2 T. freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1 t. fresh oregano
2 t. fresh basil
1/2 t. fresh thyme

Combine cheese and herbs; set aside.

Brush slices of French bread with oil on both sides.  Bake slices at 350 for 5 minutes.

Turn slices over and spread herb mixture on soft side of bread.  Return to oven and bake another 7-10 minutes.

Yum!

Parched Corn No More

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Woo hoo!  These little guys are parched no more.  We got rain!!

After three weeks of nothing but a few sprinkles, our little farm got a healthy, nourishing dose of blessed rain yesterday!  We are so thankful!  Not only does that mean no more Amish watering system for a few days, but a natural rain is always more effective than a manmade one.

My always-logical husband pointed out that if we had been getting the rain other areas had been getting, yesterday’s rain amounts might have been overkill and sent us back into the too-much-water phase.  He’s probably right.

As it is, we got a good amount yesterday, and we are still feeling the gratitude.  Even the grass is already greener…and the weeds are already taller!

Now that the soil is nice and soft, let the weeding begin!

 

Dry as Dust

Our gardens are so dry.  In ten days’ time, they went from being washed out in places by torrential downpours to being dry, dry, dry as dust.  I’ve never seen conditions go from one extreme to the other so quickly.

Since we don’t have an ideal situation for drip irrigation, we are using what we affectionately call our Amish watering system–which pretty much equals the kids and me out watering the gardens by hand.  I am thankful for our Amish friend who could help me see the humor in this process by naming it something more interesting than “watering drudgery”.  He is the same friend who boasts to “English” folks that he and his wife have “six-and-one-half dozen children”.  After people pick their jaws up off the floor, he smiles and clarifies that he means six children plus half a dozen children–making twelve in all.  Certainly still a large family, but not quite so mind-boggling to the average joe.

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Anyway, we have a significant advantage over most of my Amish friends; we don’t have to hitch up the mule to pull all of the water down to where our largest gardens are.  We get to load up our old truck instead.  We fill about 15 buckets and put the water out via watering cans.  When that truckload is gone, we drive up to the house and fill the buckets again.  It takes about 6 truckloads of water to really soak our two big gardens.  We tend to shoot for three truckloads a day and then take a break for a day.  Throughout the process, we pray for rain.  I think we need to be more specific in our prayers, though, because the rain keeps missing us.  My brother’s garden, however, is staying well-watered.  (He’s always been everyone’s favorite.)

Today is our day off, and part of me is happy about that.  We get to go visit some family in their new home and water ourselves in their swimming pool.  The other part of me is aware that the temperatures are supposed to get pretty high, which will make the water we put out yesterday even less effective.  I may wind up putting some out tonight when the sun begins to set–just to soften the heat of the afternoon.  I am so thankful for good health and strong bodies that make these tasks possible.  I am also thankful for a deep and generous well that has never run dry–even during the driest of summers.

So, if you think of us tonight just before sunset, please join us in giving thanks for these good gifts.  And, while you’re at it, we sure would appreciate your prayers for a soaking, nourishing rain this week.

 

Asparagus Beetles

I love asparagus.  It is truly one of my favorite foods.  When we planted 75 roots a few years ago, I thought all of my future asparagus desires would be fully realized.  I was wrong.  We planted 50 more roots this spring.

Last year, I noticed these teeny tiny little black specks on our asparagus, and it occurred to me that they were the eggs of some kind of insect.  Yep.  No problem.  We just washed them off before we ate the stalks.  No big deal.

It didn’t occur to me to scrape the eggs off of the skinny stalks that we allowed to go to seed.

Our asparagus season began with serious damage done by those blasted asparagus beetles!  It is amazing to me that three relatively small insects can completely destroy a healthy stalk in less than 24 hours…and still have time to lay a few dozen eggs.  Ugh!  The good news is, that unlike cabbage worms and tomato worms, asparagus beetles are not at all camouflage.  They are easy to see and easy to kill.

Twice a day, I walk up and down my rows of asparagus, knocking dozens of beetles off of the stalk and into a cup of soapy water or smashing them between my fingers before scraping the eggs off each stalk.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  This is the reality of pesticide-free gardening, folks, and this is why you pay more for it.  Growers need compensated for the carnage.  Gardening can be a nasty business.

Between the beetles and a late freeze before which I neglected to harvest the stalks that were up, we’re a little light on asparagus around here.  It’s a sorrowful state, truly.

The way I see it, I have a choice here.  I can be mad about it or I can learn my lesson and move on.  I mean, I am the one who allowed the eggs to reach maturity instead of getting rid of them when I first noticed their presence.  And, I am the one who was too busy to take the time to cut the asparagus in case of freezing temperatures.  I can’t always control the bad things that happen around here, but I certainly can control the way I respond.

This makes me think of sin.  The devil plants negative thoughts in my mind.  Do I let them stay and grow into something destructive?  Life throws a variety of obstacles in my path.  Do I deal with the momentary inconvenience of handling them immediately or do I give them the opportunity to bring permanent, lasting damage?

I have a choice.  It is almost always easier to do the work up front than to shove it to the back burner to deal with later.  Just like asparagus beetle eggs appear relatively harmless in the beginning, so does the first sign of sin.  And, the Bible tells us that when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.

Years ago, I heard a preacher say, “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost far more than you’re willing to pay”.  Based on my life experiences, I can emphatically agree with that.  It will never get any easier to deal with the ugly in our lives than it is right now.

Frostbite

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We had a very heavy frost, possibly an actual freeze, a couple of days ago.  We lost both our sweet and sour cherry crops as well as most of our peaches, which is pretty sad for our family.  Fortunately, we had not yet planted much in our garden that would result in total crop failure.

Our potatoes sustained some frostbite, so I spent some time this morning cutting back the dead, damaged leaves so that the healthy parts of the plant can keep on growing.  We had mulched them pretty heavily the day before the forecasted frost, but we hadn’t completely covered everything.  Our broccoli plants and sugar snap pea seedlings still look a little rough, but I think they’ll rebound okay, too.

One of the things I respect about gardening is the reality that I am really not in control.  There are often certain things I can do to protect my various endeavors, but there is always an element that is completely beyond my grasp.  In my opinion, this is a healthy, humbling realization.  No matter what resources I have at my disposal and what energies I invest in all that I hope to accomplish, my ability to control every aspect is an illusion.  In order to have peace of mind, I’ve got to be okay with that.  I have to know when to keep working and when to let go.

Relationships have the same limitations.  We can only do what we can do.  Love.  Forgive.  Pray.  Repent.  Not every relationship is going to work perfectly.  Not every season is going to be an easy one.  At some point, we’ve got to be okay with that if we want to maintain peace of mind.  We can only do what we can do, and then we can ask God’s grace to cover over our mistakes.  That’s where the peace comes in.  We do what God calls us to do.  We work on the dead, damaged places in our own hearts, giving room for God to grow the healthy places into something living and productive.  We also have to allow for others to work on their own lives…or not.  We must relinquish the illusion of control.

I confess that this is a difficult concept for me–one that I struggle to learn time after time.  I can only do what I can do.  Love. Forgive. Pray. Repent.  Fortunately, if I shift my focus to these things, there is always more than enough to keep me well-occupied.

 

 

Deep Bed Mulching…Check!

Even though it ended with me completely drenched from the rain, I am thrilled to have deep-bed mulched almost all of my section of the back garden this afternoon.  It was a lot of work, because I waited too late in the season to do it (which meant having to mow or pull the weeds I’d allowed to get out of control).  And, to be honest, I was slightly tempted to mow the whole thing and just till it under.  BUT, it took me two years to convince Dave to leave a section of dirt for me to try my “hippie” approach for enriching the soil, reducing weeds and retaining moisture.  We’ve had remarkable success in this test area in the two years since I started it, but Farmer Dave is still reluctant to let go of time on the tractor for the rest of our garden space…and I completely understand.  I like driving our old John Deere 2010, too!
Today, I basically unrolled a huge round bale of hay that has been decaying at the edge of our woods for a number of years.  I then spread the rotting hay over the area that I had just mowed.  In some areas, I put down sections of newspapers under the hay, too, providing an additional barrier against the thistles that I’d allowed to establish.
In the past, I’ve mulched with grass clippings, soiled hay from our chicken coop and truckloads of dead leaves.  It’s a lot of work on the day we mulch it, but the energy it takes to maintain is almost nothing for the majority of the growing season.  Our plants stay moist in dry weather and don’t become overrun with weeds when the rains hang on.
For most of the rest of our gardens, I mulch in between rows after planting as opposed to covering the entire space each year.  This is still greatly beneficial, but driving that heavy tractor over it at the beginning and end of every season seems to undo some of the weed barrier and soil aeration that the deep bed mulching allows.
I ran out of hay before I could totally finish, but I know that, with all of the rain we’ve had, there will be plenty of grass clippings this week to fill in the gap.  It really feels good to have such a big job done!