End of the season: Oct. 21, 2015

It’s been a long time since I’ve recorded anything in this blog.  I think doing a gardening blog is a lot like gardening–intense interest and work at the beginning of the season but becoming tired of gardening and doing the blog as the season winds down.  I know, however, that when the seed catalogs begin to appear in early winter that my interest in gardening will resume.

It’s been a great and long gardening season.  I’ve still got carrots in the garden that will need to be taken in and placed in plastic bags in the fridge.  I’ve transplanted two basils, one parsley plant and some oregano into clay pots in the solarium.  I have some new basil coming up from seed in the same area and am waiting for cilantro seeds to sprout.  The other herbs–thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, chives are doing well inside.

A few days ago, after a couple frosts, Carolyn and I picked the seven Brussels sprouts plants, blanched and froze the sprouts into 6 freezer bags.  If the plants hadn’t been nibbled in the spring by the woodchuck and if I’d sprayed earlier in the fall with Bacillus thuringensis for cabbage worms that were eating the leaves we probably would have had bigger sprouts.  These are nice however.

We’ve used up all our garlic already so I planted lots more for next year.  The Ailsa Craig Exhibition onions look fine as do the various squash and the potatoes.  I pulled up the rutabagas which will supply additional heft for potato soup this winter.  Tried to make juice concentrate out of wild rose hips but got very little juice.

The cover crop of annual rye looks great.  Next spring I’ll be digging up the soil in the garden to make “permanent” raised beds not bounded by wood planks however.  I think I’ve compacted the soil too much this year so I want to have beds where I don’t walk that are surrounded by paths.  Hope I can get this done.

The fall lettuces in the cold frame look good.  The Swiss chard and what remains of the kale look fine but I doubt if we’ll eat them.  The parsley and cilantro haven’t succumbed to frost.  Have taken out all the marigolds and zinnias that froze.

I put up monofilament lines around the orchard hoping they’ll deter deer.  Did put tree wrap and hardware cloth wire around the fruit trees.  Have to put up some wire cages around cedar trees and raspberries yet.  Am getting wood cut for the fireplace.  Aaron helped me take in the dock and the rowboat about 2 weeks ago and also helped me blow more insulation into the attic over the bedrooms.  After I put away the lawn furniture and rake up the oak leaves (which had anthracnose last year) we’ll be set for winter.

We moved the honeyberries into the orchard.  They were obstructing the view of the ferns and the yew by the house and they’ll get more sun in the orchard.  Here are some pictures.

annual rye cover crop over the old potato patch
annual rye cover crop over the old potato patch
last of the garden zinnias
last of the garden zinnias
Brussel's sprouts
Brussel’s sprouts
last cabbage--split open
last cabbage–split open
rutabagas
rutabagas
lettuces in the cold frame
lettuces in the cold frame
lettuce outside of the cold frame
lettuce outside of the cold frame
carrots
carrots
chard
chard
last blooms of the scarlet runner beans
last blooms of the scarlet runner beans
last green beans and zucchini
last green beans and zucchini
the gales of November came early
the gales of November came early
fall sedum--a favorite of bees
fall sedum–a favorite of bees
maple near Matt's water garden
maple near Matt’s water garden
bridal wreath spirea
bridal wreath spirea
cannas
cannas
fern leaf peony--one of the few perennials that bloom all summer
fern leaf peony–one of the few perennials that bloom all summer
borage
borage
wild basil--actually a mint
wild basil–actually a mint
carcasses of the Brussel's sprouts
carcasses of the Brussel’s sprouts
Brussel's sprouts ready for the freezer
Brussel’s sprouts ready for the freezer
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Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015–winding down some more

I have a few photos of what’s been happening thus far.  Not much exciting.  I’m spreading compost and llama manure over those parts of the garden that have been harvested and have seeded annual rye which looks great.  No frost yet.  I’ll wait until there’s a frost before harvesting squash or Brussels sprouts.  Will be planting fall spinach and lettuce under a cold frame.  Still not sure how to preserve carrots–last year spreading lots of straw mulch over them didn’t work.  Beets have been harvested as has the broccoli.  A few cabbages are left as are a few tomatoes.  Kale and Swiss chard look great.  Haven’t taken in the pot herbs but have brought in the geraniums.  I’ve cut off the tops of the amaryllis plants, lifted them with their pots out of the ground in back of Matt’s pond, and set them on their sides in the shop so they’ll go into dormancy for a few months.  Have stopped watering the Christmas cactuses.  The ground cherries or tomatillos are ripening.  All the dry beans have been shelled except for the scarlet runners which continue to bloom.  A beautiful time of the year.

wedding garden--now a profusion of physostegia and chrysanthemums.
wedding garden–now a profusion of physostegia and chrysanthemums.
hops flowers
hops flowers
amaryllis in their pots in the soil behind Matt's pond.
amaryllis in their pots in the soil behind Matt’s pond.
a homemade plane I found recently.  I think I may have carved this for Matt at one time.  Now it's in his pond garden.
a homemade plane I found recently. I think I may have carved this for Matt at one time. Now it’s in his pond garden.
Matt's pond
Matt’s pond
Amaryllises out of the ground.
Amaryllises out of the ground.
Amaryllises trimmed, ready for placement into the Dorman Sea.
Amaryllises trimmed, ready for placement into the Dorman Sea.
Virgin's bower (native clematis)--weakened by last winter's lack of snow but it still looks nice.
Virgin’s bower (native clematis)–weakened by last winter’s lack of snow but it still looks nice.

Sept 1, 2015–winding down

The other day I was waxing rhapsodic about the look of gardens, especially vegetable gardens, in late summer–overgrown tomatoes, kale, pole beans and weeds.  My garden looked like this.  However, I did something I usually don’t do in late summer–I cleaned it up and weeded.  Now I can’t wax rhapsodic about it being overgrown but can enjoy the open spaces I’ve created.  I let the broccoli go to flower–the bees love it that way.  Today I cooked a combination of aronia and elder berries to make a juice concentrate.  Of course I added sugar.  It’s really quite good with tonic water.  The aronias were starting to dry out so it was time to pick them.  I left elderberries for the birds.

My zucchini continues to produce despite being afflicted with powdery mildew.  It’s been really hot here–in the 90’s–and more humid than usual so mildew thrives.  We’re supposed to get some rain this weekend.  The lake has warmed up enough to allow morning swims to the Beutner’s dock and back using the backstroke.  I get sinus infections if I do the crawl in the lake.

Our exchange student Meret is with us for this month from Austria.  She’s a delightful girl, very pleasant and VERY athletic.  She’s also a good cook.  She made an apple cake for us for our anniversary tomorrow (48 years) and she and Carolyn made a great hot dish with zucchini, eggplant, tofu, tomatoes and herbs.

I’ve said that I’ve had trouble growing peppers and eggplants in the past.  Not this year.  I have lots of big sweet peppers and some giant eggplants.  Guess it’s warm enough for them.  Also my tomatoes are doing alright–not so many but they are large in size.

I’ve also learned to plant new patches of cilantro regularly.  It makes a big difference and it’s nice to have fresh cilantro.

Here are some pictures.

Refrigerator pickles and Amy's cookbook.
Refrigerator pickles and Amy’s cookbook.
Carolyn's refrigerator pickles made from Margaret's cucumbers.  My cucumbers fizzled this year.
Carolyn’s refrigerator pickles made from Margaret’s cucumbers. My cucumbers fizzled this year.
your bald eagle on our beach
young bald eagle on our beach
powdery mildew on zucchini
powdery mildew on zucchini
bumblebee on sunflower at community garden
bumblebee on sunflower at community garden
Aspen scaber stalk mushrooms from our woods-delicious fried with butter, rosemary and garlic
Aspen scaber stalk mushrooms from our woods-delicious fried with butter, rosemary and garlic
Two tree frogs near Margaret's door
Two tree frogs near Margaret’s door
Margaret's perennial flowers near the entrance to her home
Margaret’s perennial flowers near the entrance to her home
Margaret's Pee Gee Hydrangeas
Margaret’s Pee Gee Hydrangeas
Meret and Carolyn at the State Fair
Meret and Carolyn at the State Fair
Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed along Fish Hook Drive
Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed along Fish Hook Drive
spider webs along the road
spider webs along the road
home made sauerkraut from my daughter-in-law Amy's cookbook.
home made sauerkraut–recipe from my daughter-in-law Amy’s cookbook.
Zinnias, tomatoes, marigolds, annual rye cover crop
Zinnias, tomatoes, marigolds, annual rye cover crop
vegetable garden after weeding
vegetable garden after weeding
vegetable garden after weeding
vegetable garden after weeding

August 21, 2015–the light

I attended a wonderful ag/orcharding meeting at Central Lakes College in Staples today–got home about 5:30 pm.  Carolyn had prepared a wonderful dinner and we sat down to watch a Russel Crowe movie.  It was getting dusk and I went outside to put Natty into his house but he was so comfortable by the porch I decided to trust him to stay there.  I’m waiting for some parts to repair his shock collar.  No storms are forecast for tonight so he shouldn’t get nervous and run off to Ulmers, I hope.

When I got outside I noticed the beautiful light.  Today has been hazy presumably from the fires out west and the evening light was beautiful.  Our place looked like the French villa in the Crowe movie so I took some pictures.  Here they are.  Oops–the darker ones were taken last and looked much brighter on the camera.  May try again tomorrow.

crescent moon
crescent moon
geraniums and tuberous begonias
geraniums and tuberous begonias
Matt's garden with chairs
Matt’s garden with chairs
Matt's garden through the arbor with solar light
Matt’s garden through the arbor with solar light
left side of our entrance with physostegias and agastaches
left side of our entrance with physostegias and agastaches
right side of entrance to our place--black-eyed susans and silphiums blooming
right side of entrance to our place–black-eyed susans and silphiums blooming
raspberries near garage
raspberries near garage
wildflower garden with wild rose.  I intend to make rose hip jelly after a frost occurs
wildflower garden with wild rose. I intend to make rose hip jelly after a frost occurs
green peppers
green peppers
wedding garden with physostegia blooming
wedding garden with physostegia blooming
phlox and hydrangeas near the shop path
phlox and hydrangeas near the shop path
heliopsis near the vegetable garden
heliopsis near the vegetable garden
physocarpus
physocarpus
heliopsis and zucchini
heliopsis and zucchini
Brussel's sprouts
Brussel’s sprouts
last nice head of broccoli
last nice head of broccoli
other half of herb garden with garlic chives blooming
other half of herb garden with garlic chives blooming
herb garden
herb garden
marigolds
marigolds
Aronias ripening
Aronias ripening
Wodarz apples
Wodarz apples
Harelred apples
Harelred apples
vegetable garden.  I'm letting the broccoli flower--pollinators love it and we wouldn't be eating these broccoli anyway.
vegetable garden. I’m letting the broccoli flower–pollinators love it and we wouldn’t be eating these broccoli anyway.
Zinnias in the vegetable garden
Zinnias in the vegetable garden
our annual garden
our annual garden

August 6, 2015–into the woods

When we got back from southern MN at the end of June I was concerned since I saw very few bumblebees around.  However, especially as the Culver’s root began to blossom, the bees returned with a vengeance.  The first ones I saw were small but now I see larger ones.  I’m wondering if the first bumblebees who came out in the spring were the queens who’d overwintered and the later ones were their kids.  Could a new batch of queens been produced toward the end of June and the small bees I’m seeing now be their worker offspring?  A second batch of bees.  I don’t know but I’m surely glad there are lots of them now.

I didn’t plant a succession of flowering plants specifically for the bees but that’s how it’s worked out.  The borage, heliopsis, phlox, squash and garlic chives are flowering now along with the Culver’s roots.  Soon the oregano will flower and lastly will be the sedum.  I hope there will be lots of bees next spring.

Out in the woods the hog peanuts (Amphicarpos) are flowering and we see berries (inedible for us but good for birds) on the snowberry bushes.  We’re eating a few wild raspberries but there aren’t as many as last year.  Here’s a couple pictures of the woodland things.

hog peanut-a belt and suspenders vine--it has flowers above ground and flowers below ground.  Those latter develop nuts that apparently hogs root for.  They are edible but I've read that you need to dig for hours to get a handful.  There are easier ways to get nuts to eat, I think.
hog peanut-a belt and suspenders vine–it has flowers above ground and flowers below ground. Those latter develop nuts that apparently hogs root for. They are edible but I’ve read that you need to dig for hours to get a handful. There are easier ways to get nuts to eat, I think.
snowberries
snowberries

Back in the saddle again: 8/3/2015

July was so busy I didn’t have time to update this blog so here it comes!  A summary of the last month.  Sarah and here kids Irene and Isaak were here all of July with Paul, her husband, coming for the last two weeks.  One of the favorite activities of Irene and Isaak was eating fresh carrots from the garden.  I didn’t get a picture of them with the carrots, however.  They helped pick black currants and green beans.

We harvested kale, chard, a few Russet potatoes, green beans, peas, carrots, onions and lots of herbs–basil, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, parsley, cilantro, thyme, marjoram, curry, rosemary, purslane and we have oregano and two kinds of sage ready.  I dug out my huge patch of tarragon and moved it to places outside the garden.

Things are getting into harvest mode now.  The onions and garlic are winding down.  We’re finally getting some ripe cherry tomatoes but no other tomatoes.  The peas are done but the green beans continue to produce prolifically.  Apples are ripening and the arenas seem to be turning bluish slowly.  We should have lots of squash.  The zucchini is, as usual, charging ahead and soon it will be beyond what we can use.

Paul has a friend from Penn State, Ruth, who stayed here a few days before picking up her daughter from Swedish language camp in Bemidji.  She’s an avid gardener and showed me a great way to use herbs–just cut up a bunch oif whatever you have and mix them with sour cream and yogurt for a dip.  I’ve since done this with zucchini–cut up the zucchini and fried it in butter but put a bunch of herbs with it–whatever I chose tasted great–yesterday it was fennel, fenugreek, purslane, basil and parsley.

Here’s lots of pictures.iPhoto Library

black currants
black currants
black currant juice concentrate--ready to go to the freezer for drinking during the winter.
black currant juice concentrate–ready to go to the freezer for drinking during the winter.
Isaak picking black currants--he's right down at their level.
Isaak picking black currants–he’s right down at their level.
fern leaf bleeding heart--a perennial that blooms all summer long
fern leaf bleeding heart–a perennial that blooms all summer long
garden fence with scarlet runner beans
garden fence with scarlet runner beans
family of friendly ducks
family of friendly ducks
Typocerus velutinus--flower long-horned beetle on buckwheat flowers
Typocerus velutinus–flower long-horned beetle on buckwheat flowers
bumblebee on hydrangea
bumblebee on hydrangea
friendly ducks
friendly ducks
spider web in milkweed
spider web in milkweed
bumblebee on Culver's root--these flowers are a favorite of bumblebees.
bumblebee on Culver’s root–these flowers are a favorite of bumblebees.
fleeting glimpse of a small bee flying into the woodpile
fleeting glimpse of a small bee flying into the woodpile
another bee on mint flower
another bee on mint flower
small bee in heliopsis
small bee in heliopsis
a pair of flower long-horned beetles inside a rose.
a pair of flower long-horned beetles inside a rose.
blue larkspurs in our entrance garden
blue larkspurs in our entrance garden
another species of bumblebee on Culver's root
another species of bumblebee on Culver’s root
dead popple that fell apart on our trails after a ferocious windstorm
dead popple that fell apart on our trails after a ferocious windstorm
dead woodpecker -- killed when the popple fell.  Even birds can't always escape storm damage.
dead woodpecker — killed when the popple fell. Even birds can’t always escape storm damage.
bumblebee on Culver's root
bumblebee on Culver’s root
black and yellow species of bumblebee on Culver's root
black and yellow species of bumblebee on Culver’s root–can you see that I just love Culvrer’s root?
nice batch of green peppers on one plant
nice batch of green peppers on one plant
Norland apple
Norland apple
bee inside squash flower
bee inside squash flower
young buttercup squash
young buttercup squash
young carnival squash
young carnival squash
delicata squash
delicata squash
green tomatoes
green tomatoes
purple passion flower--second summer for this potted plant, grown from seeds given by North Carolina friends.  The plant looks pretty skanky at the end of winter but perks up when I put it outside.
purple passion flower–second summer for this potted plant, grown from seeds given by North Carolina friends. The plant looks pretty skanky at the end of winter but perks up when I put it outside.
Norland apples--ripe.  You can see the evidence of bird's pecking on them.
Norland apples–ripe. You can see the evidence of birds’ pecking on them–a sure sign of ripeness.
basket of Norland apples
basket of Norland apples
applesauce from the Norlands
applesauce from the Norlands
gladiolas
gladiolas

July 8, 2015 A New Hope

Two days ago we got 1.25 inches of rain in about 20 minutes.  It was just like a huge bucket of water had been dumped over our place.  Fortunately, with our sandy soil, rail doesn’t stand around but seeps into the ground rapidly.  We ideally need a good rain every week up here to avoid having to irrigate.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time weeding the vegetables garden again, knowing that the weeds would grow full force after such a rain.  The broccoli that the woodchuck ravaged seems to be recovering with some new florets emerging and the Brussels sprouts are also appearing to heal.  A couple of days before the rain my 5 year old grandson, Isaak, from Indiana and I planted a new batch of radishes, lettuce and spinach.  All are now emerging.  He says he loves gardening, wants a garden like mine when he grows up, and absolutely loves eating carrots fresh from the soil.  He refuses carrots that are store bought.  I’m glad he likes this not only for his health but it’s a good way to be sure I don’t have too many carrots left in the garden by late summer when I’m trying to figure out how to preserve them.  Last fall I put lots of straw mulch over the carrots, hoping they’d survive, but they all died.  The only winter this technique worked for me was one where we had lots of snow early.  We really need lots of snow for winter protection up here.  Isaak, by the way, should have fresh radishes to eat in a couple of weeks–ones he planted himself.

He helped me clean out the garden shed yesterday.  We found a couple of toy boats that inexplicably ended up there so we took a break to play with them in the lake–he played with them and I watched and napped.  Today we’ll have to go to the dump to bring trash and recyclables retrieved from the garden shed.  I try to recycle or reuse as much as possible but some things just have to be trashed.  I did find another broken piece of crockery that I put in amongst the perennials to serve as a hideout for toads.  I’ve seen a good sized toad in various parts of the place over the last few days–either that or several similarly sized ones.  Nice to have them around.

The other thing I did yesterday was to transplant the tarragon.  It had grown into such a huge clump, enough for all of northern Minnesota, I think, and the heavy downpour flattened it.  When I clipped the stalks it put out lots of pollen that gave me a horrendous cough until I finally finished the task.  It was either pollen or dust but I suspect pollen.

I left a few strands of tarragon in the garden but moved most of it to a spot outside the fence just to the right of the main gate with a couple of other plantings in the orchard and near one of the black currants which, by the way, will need to be harvested this week.

We’ll also be harvesting peas this week.  The beans are all blooming nicely as are the potatoes.  I’ve been trying to get the tomatoes to stay within their cages but they’ve been growing so rapidly that it’s difficult to keep up with this.

I noticed some aphids on one of the green peppers in my cold frame so I’ve been lifting the cover during the day to allow rain and breeze to clean them off.  A soapy spray would be useful but I’ll hold this in reserve for now.  The apples are growing well and I noticed I have one plum on the Toka that I grafted a couple of years ago!

The temperatures here were around 85 degrees with high humidity during the Fourth of July but dropped 25 degrees after the heavy rain.  It’s just delightful here now with morning temps 45 to 50 degrees and highs in the low 70’s;  the humidity is low.  Here are some pictures.

Asiatic lilies within vegetable garden--best they've ever looked.
Asiatic lilies within vegetable garden–best they’ve ever looked.
Cascadia snap peas ready to pick
Cascadia snap peas ready to pick
Wodarz apples
Wodarz apples
delicata squash in hugulkultur bed
delicata squash in hugulkultur bed
Norland apples
Norland apples
winter squash in hugulkultur bed--probably buttercup
winter squash in hugulkultur bed–probably buttercup
Day lilies
Day lilies
Heliopsis
Heliopsis
Filipendula Queen of the Prairie
Filipendula Queen of the Prairie
new tarragon location outside of fence
new tarragon location outside of fence
herb garden after tarragon was removed
herb garden after tarragon was removed
potatoes in rear, shell beans in front
potatoes in rear, shell beans in front
Where the tarragon used to be.  The pot (broken) is there for a toad haven.
Where the tarragon used to be. The pot (broken) is there for a toad haven.
broccoli ravaged by woodchuck--starting to come back with new florets
broccoli ravaged by woodchuck–starting to come back with new florets

July 1, 2015–the woodchuck

We were gone to Norseland for 4 days and had our dog Natty in a local kennel.  When we returned on June 30 I noted devastation in the vegetable garden–the broccoli plants had been stripped severely as had half the Brussels sprouts.  Some lettuce had been nibbled down as had a few marigolds, the fenugreek, the sunflowers and all the parsley.  I had seen a woodchuck a few days before we left for Norseland and deduced that this could be the only logical culprit.  The can sneak under a fence or climb over it.  I had left dog hair in clumps outside the garden around the squash and sprayed them with rabbit repellant before we left, also throwing Natty’s droppings into the brush behind the orchard hoping this would discourage any woodchucks.

I stayed out on the porch all night, periodically checking the garden with a flashlight to no avail.  But this morning I went out into the brassicas and spotted the critter–I’m sure it was the same woodchuck I’d seen earlier–dining on a Brussels sprout.  He ran into a patch of beans from which I chased him to the patch of beans on the other side of the garden.  I then took out my 12 gauge shotgun and sat patiently just inside the garden gate for 1/2 hour.  Finally I heard some chewing and saw a Brussels sprout plant moving.  I slowly stood up and saw him looking at me and I nailed him with the 12 gauge.

I felt badly about doing this but woodchucks can be so devastating and there is simply no other option.  Trapping them is hugely difficult and one can’t repel them.  I know they’re part of nature and simply doing what they have to do but I’m part of nature too, and I have a gun.

Putting this into a bit of more perspective–it’s not like we’re prairie pioneers and losing some vegetables will put our family in danger of starvation.  Gardening is a hobby for me, not life or death.  Anyway, I hope this is the last woodchuck I’ll see.  It was the first ever one for my gardens of 42 years so it’s been a good record.  No pictures today.

June 21, 2015–the day after the summer solstice–now the days start getting shorter again.

We had a wonderful rain of 1.1 inches here last night.  Went to a solstice party at a friends near Nevis on Lake Belle Taine.  Saw a family, mom and 4 kids, of skunks cross the road ahead of us.  Wisely, I think, I didn’t get out of the car to get a closer picture.  Nothing much new blooming but, my, the vegetables are growing.  You can see the daily changes.  The cucumbers I planted to replace the ones I lost are mostly gone now as well.  They were nearly hopeless anyway.  Need to do something next year to get better cucumbers.  Everything else is just fine.  Seeing new pea pods as well as some tiny tomato flowers.  Cilantro is blooming.  Here are some other pics of blooms.

bear tracks on Aaron's road last week
bear tracks on Aaron’s road last week
toad in the vegetable garden--another garden buddy
toad in the vegetable garden–another garden buddy
grasses blooming
grasses blooming
rather pathetic blooms on the iris we imported from Nebraska
rather pathetic blooms on the iris we imported from Nebraska
ox-eye daisies (technically a noxious weed but I like them) and orange Dropmore honeysuckles flowers
ox-eye daisies (technically a noxious weed but I like them) and orange Dropmore honeysuckles flowers
annuals starting to bloom
annuals starting to bloom
family of skunks going down a driveway about 2 miles away from our place
family of skunks going down a driveway about 2 miles away from our place