Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter has arrived!

Today is the official first day of winter as well as being the shortest day of the year. Now we are working toward springtime day by day with each day getting longer. Something to look forward to on this icy day!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ice storm

We had an ice storm Thursday night and Friday morning. All together we got about 1/2 inch of ice. The power was only out for about 4 hours. I think that a line was down in the neighborhood because after the power went out, you could occasionally see a very bright red glow/flash down the road. The cable was out until this morning. I loved it. Katie did not see the humor in no cable TV and no internet.
The above picture is cockeyed so that I could get the whole branch in the picture. We lost one other 4 inch dia. branch that hit out bedroom window and ripped the screen, but other than that, no real damage. We were very fortunate!
Tonight all that ice is still on the trees and lines, and the wind is getting pretty gusty due to a cold front moving through. The temperature dropped 15 degrees in 1 1/2 hours.

Lettuce sprouts

My lettuce has sprouted. The package said 10-14 days germination so I felt that the conditions in the shed must be pretty good. I went to take a picture to post, but my camera ran out of batteries. What luck! Anyway, I got new batteries at Wal-Mart today, so I will get some to post.
Now I just need to see how transplanting them goes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Indoor lettuce

I am trying some indoor lettuce this winter in the potting shed. I planted 4 varieties of which I cannot remember right now. I will have to get the names to write down. I know that one is romaine and one is black seeded simpson. The seed is old, so if it germinates great, if not, no loss.
I have a set up of lights that I use to start my seeds in late winter for outdoors that I am using. We will see how it goes. I would also like to try some other seeds depending on how well these do. The heat and fans are on in there and the temp is about 64 degrees.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

First snow

We are getting our first snow today. It seems early. We actually have a winter storm warning for 5-7 inches with the wind picking up later in the day.
So far the snow in not sticking under the trees and on the roads. I don't think that we are going to get that much. I think it is actually going north of here...darn!
The birds are well cared for though. The feeders are full and the heater is in the bird bath. No gardening means switching to a new focus for the winter months. I am researching how to do some winter gardening in the shed though...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I fired up the heater in the potting shed today. I have thought about trying to grow some lettuces under lights, but I'm not sure.
It certainly needs cleaned. It was somewhat neglected this summer.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I picked a large yogurt container of red raspberries tonight. I was surprised to see that there are still a lot of green berries coming. We are supposed to have temps into the 30's the next couple of nights though. We will see how they do and if it frosts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

End of summer...lessons learned

Well, summer is officially over. The garden is looking worn out and neglected.
There are some things that I will do differently next year:
  1. Put my cucumbers and other vining plants in the middle or on one end of my raised beds. This year I put them on the edge and they took over everything on either side.
  2. Plant cucumber and other vining plants less intensively. I planted them every 6 inches as was suggested in a book that I read, and that was just too much for me. I could not tell what was what!
  3. Cage and stake my tomatoes early!! Bad mistake to do this late. I know better!
  4. My raspberry bushes went crazy this year. They were unable to be contained no matter what. I think that I need to move them out of the veggie garden.
  5. Plant more flowers in the garden. I missed my zinnias!
  6. More companion planting.

I am already getting the itch to plan for next year and this year's garden isn't even frosted yet. That is the beauty of gardening. Always another chance to improve next year.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Farmer's Market

Tonight is Farmer's Market downtown. We currently are up to 1.81 inches of rain and it is still coming down steadily. I don't think anyone will be there...
I was talking with Bill the other day about enlarging our garden and participating in the Farmer's Market next year. Poor guy probably groans everytime I bring up enlarging our garden. Like there's not enough to do! I know that I would love the opportunity to talk with other gardeners and the people that come to buy fresh foods. The atmosphere would be great!
I read an awesome article in a recent Guideposts magazine article that was very inspirational. I'm sure that there are kitchens in this area that would love to have excess garden veggies too.
Maybe the garden will get bigger after all....

Rainy day

Today is not a good day to be in the garden, but it is a good day for the garden. The remnants of Hurricane Gustav have arrived in Illinois and as of 1 pm, we have had 1.18 inches of rain. This certainly helps make up for a dry August. The rain has been nice and steady. No horrible downpours. Just what we need!
My hummingbird does not seem to mind, he is taking in food from the feeder throughout the rain. Maybe he likes it too!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

We dug potatoes and picked peppers, tomatoes, and raspberries today.
Some of the potatoes were huge. Bill and Lauren and her friend, Bree, were the potato diggers. The girls had a blast. It is amazing how excited kids get about the garden. They were hunting furiously for the next potato. After they found them, they would say what it looked like. We had a V, a gun, and minuscule potatoes (one held by Lauren). I love to see kids getting dirty in the garden! All in all, we got a 5 gallon bucket plus close to another half of one from the garden this year. The potatoes did not do very well in the beginning of the year, so we were very happy with what we got.
I picked peppers to make some mild pepper rings for Bill. They are one of his favorites. Lots of tomatoes coming too. We will need to can again...
The fall crop of raspberries is well on its way. The bees really like them also. With all of the talk about Colony Collapse Disorder, it is good to see so many. However, I must admit that we see more bumblebee types than honeybees on these. The honeybees like the blooms on the pumpkins and cucumbers better.
The girls were then playing pilgrims and "gathering crops for winter". They had a great time with some of the large zucchini, old lettuces and radishes, a couple baby pumpkins, and too large green and wax beans. Soon, we had a number of neighborhood kids over all playing with the vegetables. Bill built a fire and they "cooked" their recipes and concoctions. They played well past dark... Great fun!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Back from surgery

Well, I came back from the hospital on Friday. The last days are just a blur. Bill has been so good to can and pick the garden. He has canned green and wax beans and tomatoes. The tomatoes are finally starting to really turn red.
Today I was putzing in the yard and saw what looked like a black shiny mud dauber attack a big katydid. I am used to seeing the big cicada killers around, but not this insect. He crawled up the fence with his catch and flew off. I figured he needed the height to get going. We have quite a few of these mud dauber looking bugs around. They swarm the ground around our Green Ash tree at various times of the day.
The weather is nice and cool again. Low 50's for tonight and low 80's tomorrow. I love it!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Peaches...the canning continues

Well, I am home with a sick daughter on the first day of school. However, the silver lining to that cloud is that I can finish the peaches. We have 28 quarts as of last night. I have about 3/4 of a bushel to can this morning. I do think that we will have to get some more though. This does not seem like quite enough. My surgery is tomorrow though, so I will have to see how I am doing and feeling.
I will post a picture later of the quarts. They look so pretty in the jars!

Monday, August 18, 2008


We bought 2 bushels of Michigan Redhaven peaches from Tanner's last week for canning. The price went up like everthing else these days. $5 more a half bushel than 2 years ago. Still cheaper than my neighbor who bought hers through the local farm bureau. I canned 14 quarts yesterday and 7 more today. That was one bushel worth. If I get 21 quarts from a bushel, that will give me approximately 40 quarts total. I am hoping to have more than that. May have to make another trip to Tanner's if the supply holds out.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The end result...

Here is the end result of my pickles. I ended up with 8 pints. One pint would not fit in my canner, so it went straight to the refrigerator (after I tried them, of course!). They have good flavor.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bread and butter pickles

I am trying to make bread and butter pickles for the first time today. I found a recipe on the internet that looked good. We will see.

I am showing them here covered with ice.

Here is the recipe:
Categories: Pickles, Vegetables
Yield: 8 Servings
4 qt Thinly Sliced Cucumbers
8 ea Med. White Onions
1/2 c Pickling Salt
5 c Sugar
1 1/2 ts Tumeric
1 ts Celery Seed
2 tb Mustard Seed
5 c Cider Vinegar
* Onions should be peeled and thinly sliced.
Mix the cucumbers and onions with the salt and 2 quarts of cracked ice and let them stand, covered with a weighted lid, for 3 hours. Drain thoroughly and put the vegetables in a large kettle. Add the sugar, spices and vinegar and bring almost to a boil, stirring often with a wooden spoon, but do not boil. Pack the pickles into hot jars and seal. Makes 7 - 8 pints.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cherry tomatoes

Finally...I ate my first cherry tomato from our garden today! It tasted so good. Now I have to wait for more!
I received a call yesterday stating that my peaches will be in Monday. I'm so glad that they will be ready before I have my surgery! I was afraid of not being able to help with them. This should be a busy week.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Green beans

We were able to can 17 quarts of green bean today. This was the result of a grocery bag full to start. I was pretty impressed since this was our first picking from a 4x8 foot bed. Our wax beans should be ready to pick now. I never knew until now that wax beans start out yellow. I thought that I had the wrong seed when they started out green!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Garden picks...

Today we picked green beans. Ours are later than everyone else's because we planted so late. I was surprised at the amount of beans that we got from the raised beds. The bed is only 4x8 and we picked a whole grocery bag tonight. We also picked quite a few cucumbers and some peppers. I want to can some pickled peppers. Bill really likes them.
Bill's dad gave us 8 dozen ears of corn this week and we canned creamed corn. Usually we freeze it, but thought we would try canning this year.
I will get some pics up soon....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Weed and weed

I was just reading an article in the paper today about how this summer is such a great one for flowers and gardens. However, that also makes it good for the weeds!
Everyone I have talked to that gardens is having the same problem. The weeds are trying to take over. I think they are growing overnight. We have had a lot of rain coupled with humidity and temps that are pretty reasonable. I guess what grows good flowers and veggies grows good weeds too.
My cucumbers this year are amazing! I don't think that I have ever had such good luck. The cattle panel seems to be working well as a trellis behind the raised bed. Something that I will do differently next year though is plant only one variety in each 8 ft. section. I planted 3 varieties this year and they have grown together so much, I'm not sure that I will know the difference. Live and learn. I will also not plant 2 rows of peppers in front of the cucumbers again. The cucumbers are so bushy that they are trying to overtake the back row.
The raspberries are doing well for the first year that we have picked. We have been gone so much over the weekends though that a lot of them ripened and just fell off to the ground. The funny thing is that our black raspberries were attacked by birds prior to putting up netting. The reds are not really being bothered that we can tell. I don't know why that is.
The wax and green beans are doing well and starting to flower. The farmers that have grown beans in the area have been picking and I could smell them this am when I went outside.
The zucchini and yellow squash seem to be lagging after a rough start.
The onion tops have dried and need to be pulled and the broccoli needs cut.
With all this going on, can anyone believe that I am already thinking about what I can plant for fall?? I saw a post on Skippy's Vegetable Garden that gave a link for when to plant certain crops for fall based on the last frost date for your area. Here it is:
Good luck!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

So long without an update

I cannot believe that I have gone so long without a blog update! We have been having some internet problems, and I have not been able to get on for about a week. The other time is just me being too busy.
I will make an effort to update more often.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What is "growing on" in the garden today...

The green and wax beans are sprouting now.

This is my little bit of dill that Bill saved for me. We had such an overabundance of dill that volunteered this year. Most of it had to be removed. We kept a bit here and there.

Not a very good picture of my mini pumpkins. I was not sure if the seed would even sprout. I am trying to use up a lot of old seed this year. I cannot bear to throw away any seeds or anything green.

The cucumbers are doing pretty well. I am still waiting for them to start to climb.

Peppers on the other hand are not doing as well. Their growth seems to be stunted. Others in the area are also saying that their plants are not doing well this year. My plants are starting to get some flower buds though. Any peppers will be as big as the plants.

Two more raspberries are becoming red. They are not quite ready yet though. I sure am!

The potatoes are starting to flower. This is another plant that is not doing well. Some did not come up at all and others wilted after coming up. I lost two plants this way.
I must say that we are very pleased with the way that the raised beds are working out. Weeding seems much easier. The beds will take a couple years of compost to get a better soil, but so far, so good. It will be interesting to see over a few years how the more intensive gardening works out with harvest amounts and disease/bugs.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Today's garden work

Tonight Bill and I worked in the garden. The weather was so nice! We were able to turn the air off in the house, and the temps outside were great. There was enough breeze until sunset to keep the gnats away too.
I planted more tomatoes...yellow pear, red lightning, roma, jelly bean, and marcellino. I figured that I now have 48 plants. I figured that whatever we don't eat or can, I will take to work. There are plenty of people that are always willing to have free produce. No salmonella here!
We also planted sugar baby pumpkins that are supposed to be good for canning. Bill is hoping for canned pumpkin and pumpkin butter. We planted two plants; we'll see what happens.
The green beans, wax beans and Jack Be Little pumpkins are starting to sprout. No sign of the Baby Boo pumpkins, gourds or zucchini or squash yet. I am hoping that they will come up. I over planted the seed hoping that even though it was old seed, they would come up.
I picked the first red raspberry of the season yesterday. It was so delicious. The seeds almost melted in my mouth. I hope that the rest of them will taste as good. This will be the first year that we have picked them. Last year was the first year for them. Our wild raspberry on the fence is starting to turn red too. Earlier than the others.
The strawberries are on their way out. There are still a fair amount of berries that are almost ready but once those are done, that will be all for the season.
The fruit tree are still doing well also. Our Honeycrisp apple looks like a straight stick with no leaves. There are really no out branches. Maybe next year.
Good night and garden dreams!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Newest veggie garden pics

Here are the newest pics of the veggie garden with almost all of the raised beds in. I did not think that we would get all of them done this summer, but Bill was busy and finished them for me. I have two that need placed still and the straw placed, but the look is there.
We planted more seeds. I know that it is really late, but I thought better late than never. We planted Baby Boo pumpkins, Jack Be Little pumpkins, gourds, pic-n-pic yellow squash, zucchini, wax beans, green beans, and 16 more tomato plants (total of 32 now with more to go!!)
The flowers on the border are doing well also. I planted some more seeds hoping to fill in some of the more bare spots. I like the wild look of the volunteer plants.
We staked up the taller raspberries with old hedge poles. Bill used wire to connect them and used a technique that he used on the farm to do fencing by twisting the wire together. It gave it a really rustic look that we were hoping for. The pictures all turn out better if you click on each one to expand the view so it can be seen better. Someday I will get a nicer camera so I can take some of the great pictures that I see on other blogs.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Vegetable garden

I finally have pictures again! Here are some pictures of our garden that I referenced in the previous post with the cattle panel in the last raised bed for cucumbers. Putting the straw around made a huge difference! I hope that it keeps the weeds down. Bill has enough wood for one more box. The rest we will probably do next year.
The weather has finally warmed up and I will be planting the rest of the garden this week. I am anxious for the seedlings to pop. I still would like to plant green beans, gourds, maybe some black eyed peas and okra, beets (I know, these should have been going by now), tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, basil, garlic chives, baby pumpkins, maybe a plant of larger carving pumpkins. I could go on and on. So much to plant and so little time!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Working in the garden

Tonight Bill and I worked in the garden (I also got in a little over the fence neighborly chat!). We weeded the onions, planted more radishes, planted cucumbers, and strawed the paths between my raised beds. I put batteries on my shopping list so that I can get my camera out and get some pictures.
We put up a cattle panel along the back edge of one of the raised beds for vining plants. It worked great! Our beds are 16 ft. long and the panel is the same length.
When we were done in the garden, we both just sat back and admired it. I love a garden in spring.
We put more root stimulator on the fruit trees. Our new Honeycrisp apple tree is budding out very nicely. They look so pathetic when they are shipped as a bareroot tall twig!
I think that we will be camping this weekend, so there will not be any garden work this weekend.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Strawberries and cherries

Today my daughter picked 4 ripe strawberries. It is time to get out the netting before the critters get the berries. Lauren asked me tonight if we could "make all kinds of strawberry things like jam, pie, and tarts". Sounds good and fresh to me.
I was checking our cherry tree that we planted earlier, and it is not coming out of dormancy as well as I would have liked. Most of the limbs are not budding. When we bought the tree, it was leafless, so it was hard to know what it would do. Hopefully, it will come out of this. My camera is out of batteries right now so I am unable to take a picture.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Where is the heat??

This has to be one of the chilliest months of May that I can remember! This afternoon it was only in the 40's. My garden is usually planted 2 weeks ago and going great. I think I am just going to bite the bullet and plant this week. Hopefully some of the warmer days will cancel out these cool nights. Tell that to my peppers and tomatoes!
Actually, it has been so busy around here, that I have not gardened much at all anyway. I think that it would be great to get my hands in the dirt though. It is such great therapy for me. Seeds and plants generally do well with very few disappointments.
As soon as I get everything planted, I will have to post pictures again. I know that I will want to plant more than I have room for; I always do. Gardening in the spring is so much more fun than a worn out fall garden that is spent for the year.
One advantage to this cool weather is that the spring blooms are lasting much longer than they usually seem to. It has been pretty.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

This week's flowers and plants

I cannot believe that it has been 10 days since I posted! Work has been busy with starting a new position within the same department, so everything else has been on the back burner.
We have been having such a nice spring. Usually spring in Illinois is winter with the heat running straight to summer with air conditioning.
Containers of tomatoes and peppers waiting to be planted. It has been a little cool at night still (in the 40's) and I am hesitant to plant them out. I don't remember it being so cool this late into May. The plants are looking a little nipped, but the new leaves are doing better. I think the time that I forgot to water them did that. Oops!
This is the first year that my variegated iris has bloomed. Bill cut quite a few low branches out of the trees in the front yard last fall. Maybe that helped. I don't know. I had an apricot colored iris that also bloomed for the first time this year.
These are pictures of the columbine that I started from seed last year. I was glad to see that they made it through the winter and are blooming.

The strawberries are still blooming and starting to show berries. Soon we will be fighting the birds for berry rights!
My lilac is blooming also. It always blooms later than the hedge of old fashioned lilacs. I am not sure if it is a Miss Kim or Dwarf Korean.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope that all you women out there have a great Mother's Day! We are all mothers to something or someone!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Great Day to Work Outside

Today was a great day to work outside. It was breezy, cool, and overcast. I mowed the lawn, worked in the flower bed, transplanted peppers and tomatoes, and planted seeds.
I have definitely decided after today that not all plant starts from neighbors are a good thing. I received a start of a plant that my neighbor said, "only gets about so high and has pretty yellow flowers on it". Having never seen this plant in her yard before (now I know why), I planted it. The first year, it grew at least 5-6 feet tall. This was not a small plant. This year, it is threatening to take over my flower bed! I pulled so many of those plants today, it was not even funny! This thing is invasive!! The bad part is, I think that it may spread by roots also. I had a devil of a time getting them out. Finally, I started just yanking the plants. I will have to keep an eye on them for regrowth. Lesson learned.
My peppers and tomatoes finally got transplanted today to bigger pots. I should have done this weeks ago. It is still supposed to drop into the 40's at night, so I don't feel comfortable planting them out yet. I had them out to harden off a bit though. I have so many! They will probably end up like zucchini and I will have problems giving them away!
Finally, I planted some lettuce and radishes in the garden. The lettuce that I started a couple weeks ago is not ready to transplant yet. Again I am late starting.... We are supposed to get rain tonight and tomorrow, so the seeds should get watered in well.
I received my Mother's Day present today. A new butterfly bush. It is probably the largest one that I have ever started with. It is multi colored picked out by my girls. My husband and I planted it today also in anticipation of the rain.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Forgiving Seedlings

I have found that seedlings are somewhat forgiving of my care. I thought that I had watered my seedlings in the shed and walked in there yesterday to find that I was wrong. I was in shock to see how badly they had shriveled. Well, lots of water later, they are surviving. The cotyledons of my tomatoes are yellow, but the leaves are okay. I need to be more careful about their care.

There is so much to do in the spring that I feel that I almost need a list to check off just to get everything done.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Saturday happenings

Today was a busy day. We went hunting for morel mushrooms this am and found 3-4 pounds! Guess what was for dinner? Morels are great in egg, crackers and fried in butter. We are dehydrating the rest for later.
On the way to mushrooming, we saw a calf that had just been born. We pulled off the road and watched the calf attempt to stand a few times before being successful. I felt bad for it because it was 49 degrees, drizzling, and extremely windy at that time. What a horrible time to be a helpless wet calf!
After mushrooming, we went to the nursery and bought 2 Redhaven semi-dwarf peach trees and one semi-dwarf North Star Cherry. I wanted one more apple tree, but the nursery did not have Honeycrisp. I ended up buying it from Jung's online.
Now I think it would be a good time to go to bed and read some gardening catalogs.
Good night.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day Blooms

The crab apple blossoms are especially pretty this year. Last year they did not bloom due to a late freeze. The smell is wonderful.

More of the same crab apple.

I don't think that I remember the strawberries blooming quite so early as they are this year. Maybe I just haven't paid that much attention either.

Lilacs have to be one of my favorite spring flowers. We are fortunate to have a hedge of them across the backyard that makes for a scented outdoors! I remember as a kid, my Dad pruned them down to probably about 2 feet. (I live in the house that I grew up in.) I thought for sure that they would die. Nothing quite like a man pruning!

Now this is not a flower, shrub, or tree.... Maybe it is a tree monkey! Actually this is my youngest daughter. She was following me in the yard as I was taking pictures. The next generation of gardeners is starting!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I started various lettuce seeds today. Some of my seeds are up to three years old, so I am not sure as to how successful I will be. When I went through my seed, I found that I have a ton of lettuce seeds! I did not even plant all of them. Rather than plant them in the garden directly, even though I could. I chose to start them in a flat and see what my success rate is. I am hoping for some yummy salads! My camera does not take the best pictures, so you have to click on the picture to see it better.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Today's planting

Today my husband and I planted our potatoes. We bought seed potatoes from Wal Mart. Nothing fancy. This is the first year that we actually let them "cure" after cutting them before planting them in the dirt. I was reading on on of my favorite blogs, Skippy's Vegetable Garden, that she uses supermarket potatoes with good success. I have done that before, and will probably try that again. I like the thriftiness of it. I have read that some supermarket potatoes are treated with a chemical that retards the sprouting. I must never buy those potatoes.
Our onions that we planted are starting to sprout a bit.
My broccoli seedlings came out from under the lights today and are on the back porch to harden off for a couple days. I was so tempted just to plant them, but I would hate to see what would happen.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Start of raised bed planting

Well, the planting in raised beds has started! Bless my husband's heart, he moved quite a bit of compost and soil for me so that I could get some plants going. I sure hope that this method of gardening pans out well. We are really hoping for the benefit of no/less weeds as well as less compaction of soil.
Yesterday I planted Candy onion plants, super sweet onion sets, and red onion sets. There is so much to plant already. I was a bit under the weather yesterday with respiratory crud, that I did not have the "umph" to get much accomplished. There is a slight chance of rain tonight and tomorrow.
Good night.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Raised beds and etc.

Three of my new raised beds went out today. Now I just have to get them filled up with both dirt and plants! I hope that this works well. I am really hoping to not have to till the soil and be able to keep it less compacted this way. It was a dreary day here today with rain and drizzle. Tomorrow promises to be nicer with warmer temps and sunny skies. That will help dry the soil so that I can start working in the garden and move some soil.

Lots of birds out today. I was able to get a couple pics of the chickadees. A cardinal was chewing out one of the other birds in the lilacs. I was hoping that it was going to try and nest. I try to keep out plenty of food even in the summer as well as water to keep them around and happy.

Here is a picture of the robin outside my window where my computer is. The blue jays have been bothering them as they build a nest. One robin was being extremely careful. He (or was it a she??) was watching all around with a mouth full of nesting material. It was as if he did not want anyone seeing where the nest is. I guess you have to be secretive when there are so many predators!

Here is a picture of what my oldest daughter calls her Dad's "man cave". I think that it would make a heck of a garden shed. What do you think? :) I am hoping for great things out of this shed!