Garden Daybook 8/1/13

My collective thoughts for this year’s frustrated gardeners: Never give up! Maybe it will stop raining?! There is always next year! Try planting a fall garden? You are now a part of the huge learning curve all gardeners endure. We are all in this together!

It’s a sure thing that this year will be a memorable one for gardeners. Rain, rain, rain, and heat have been battering our gardens all summer. At least half of my tomatoes simply never grew because of the wet soil. I put in healthy tomato transplants and they perked up very quickly. And then . . . the rains came!! And came. And came. And STILL come. AARAUGH!! The soil has never dried out. Roots are struggling to grow in soil that is too wet. Plants eventually give up – unable to function in the constant wet. I have had so many calls from gardening friends trying to cope with difficult conditions. Even raised beds are not the be all solution to this years rains. What can I say? Please reread the first paragraph and keep the following in mind:

There is little risk in becoming overly proud of one’s garden,
because gardening by its very nature is humbling

JoAnn Barwick

July seedlings in cold frame small

One way to help with this summer’s gardening frustrations is to begin a fall garden. On July 15 I seeded broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages. This past weekend I transplanted the seedlings into 9 pacs and put them all into one of my cold frames. The seedlings are beginning to push true leaves (the leaves that are shaped like those on a mature plant) between their cotyledons or first leaves (the leaves that were inside the seed). When seedlings reach this stage of growth I begin to fertilize them with fish emulsion every 10 days. A few more weeks and I can transplant the seedlings into the garden. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage mature at their best on cooler fall weather. Don’t you love the potential in those small seedlings?!

shallots 1 small

My shallots are past due for digging as you can see by their shriveled stems. I am especially fond of Grey Shallots, considered to be the “ultimate variety by French chefs” – so says the Territorial Seed Company catalog. Grey shallots have a leathery outer shell that must be cut open and peeled off unlike the common shallot with its papery peel. Grey shallots have a mild garlicky/oniony taste. The first picture shows how the shallots look above ground before harvesting. Below you can see what I found under the ground. This small pile is what has grown from a spring planting of a single shallot.

shallots 3 small

I dug all the shallots and laid them on screens. The screen rack sits on the north side of the workshop under an overhang. The shallots will cure (dry their skins for storage) for winter storage out of the rain and sunshine. The wind can blow through and provide good air circulation. After a several weeks of curing I can pick out a small basket of the biggest shallots to plant in October (next years crop) and carry the rest into the cellar for winter storage.

shallots 4 small

Nick and Greg have begun to cut firewood for winter fires. They took down a dead tree from our woods and cut it to length for our wood stove. Just behind the stacked wood you can see the screen rack with the drying shallots. A friend gave us the rack, formerly used for golf clubs in his now closed golf shop. Greg fitted the shelves with chicken wire – to dry small onions and garlic. We slide in an old window screen over the chicken wire to hold the shallots. Don’t you love repurposing!

firewood 1small

Several times a week the guys spend time splitting and stacking. Little by little the pile grows. The closer cold weather comes the bigger the pile grows. I love to look out our kitchen window and see the wood stacked up and ready to carry to the stove.

firewood 3 small

Meanwhile, out in the coop, we have babies! About three weeks ago one of our Black Copper Maran hens went broody. Meaning she began to sit on a clutch of eggs – nine eggs to be exact. A few days ago we heard peeping and found 6 chicks under the new Mama. One egg did not hatch and one poor chick did not have the strength to get itself out of its egg. The ninth egg is?? Well, we just cannot find it.

broody hen 5 small

If the coop is quiet you can hear the Mama hen cluck softly to her chicks. She walks around and scratches at the coop bedding, I think to show her chicks how to scratch. Unwary chicks that step in front of her get scratched up right along with the bedding – flip flopping over themselves. The chicks are tough and seem to take the tumbles in stride.

broody hen 4 small

The chicks eat and drink only hours after coming out of their shells. They seem to be so independent but scramble back to the safety of their Mama in a split second. Mama has been hovering around the door to the outside yard so we decided to trust her instincts and allow her outside access. She went down the ramp, clucking, and came right back up, over and over. She seemed to be showing the chicks how to go outside. One by one the chicks jumped down onto the ramp, took a few steps, and flung their tiny selves off the edge to the ground beside Mama.

broody hen line up small

broody hen whose first 1small

After all six chicks were safely outside they followed Mama’s clucking and, finally, gathered under her for their first “outside” nap. Life is good!

broody hen family outside small

Hey from the farm,
Fran The Country Cousin

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