Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Our first garden dinner, and digging so much we broke a shovel.

I hope that everyone is doing well, and has gotten work done on what ever garden they have. We've gotten a fair amount done, and are really thrilled with how much good is going on in our garden. But first,baby bunnies are doing well. We don't have much in the way of baby bunny photos today because the light was strange. Twilight is still being modestly aggressive, but she's calmed down a bit at least. All of the babies are growing quickly, and all of their eyes are open. However we don't have weights to relay right now because we lost the scale. Well, let me rephrase, I put the scale somewhere, and I have NO idea where it is. So hopefully we'll have more to relay and more photos of the babies on Thursday.

Our first major thing we're eating from the garden, Radishes! The Lady of the House has been pulling up and eating baby kale and lettuce to thin out the beds primarily, with eating it being a bonus. We're actually pulling up radishes to eat them specifically. I've never really eaten radishes on their own before, only as part of something else. They have a really nice clean flavor, and the greens are spicy and delicious. I'm thinking that they may become an afternoon snack to replace chips. The Lady of the House intended them to be mixed with the lettuce planted in the same bed as our salad bed, but we'll see how that actually works out in the long run. We will at least need to make sure we let enough go that we can save seeds from the radishes instead of just devouring all of them whole as we may be inclined to do.
Left is the other bed that we're already eating from which is the kale bed. We're still having to thin it out more than it is, so we are having baby kale on sandwiches, as snack food, and just because it's there. I've never been a huge loose greens eater, but having it right there has increased how much I'm willing to just chow down on leafy greens without my standard preparation which usually involves pureeing them or eating them as part of another food rather than on their own.
Other things that have been growing well and continue to, the garlic. I didn't put another picture of the whole bed in because it's still flourishing. The picture Right is in for a specific reason. Notice the big stalk lying down, and the smaller one growing in the center? Our lovely tank of a dog plowed through the garlic bed in his enthusiasm and smashed this poor garlic plant over on Thursday. The Lady of the House and I figured it was dead. We'd made plans to eat baby garlic and garlic greens for dinner on Friday or Saturday, but lo and behold by the time we went to dig up the garlic and eat it, there was a new stalk sprouting. The Lady of the House decided to give the poor thing a chance, and as you can see, by this morning it seems to be doing just fine! So, we'll let it go. More garlic is always better, and I'm really wanting to have a bunch saved.

The biggest part of what we've been doing in our limited free time has been trying to get more beds dug so we can get all of the plants we have in the seedling tray in the ground. That's been going fairly well for the most part other than a little hitch you can see Below Left. While we were working on the bottom
bed Above, the shovel broke. The good part about wood handled shovels is you can replace the handle, the bad part is when you are prying chest sized rocks out of the ground on a regular basis, you have to replace it more often. This in mind, and given the rocks we've been prying out of the ground, I am going to be getting a fiberglass handled shovel to pry rocks with, and a wooden handle to replace this handle with for primary digging.

So, when I say monster rocks, I really mean it by the way. The rock Right isn't the one that broke the shovel, but I think it probably started it. The rock was knee high, as wide as I am, and as thick as my chest. All in all, it was probably almost exactly chest sized on me. A little too big to use as a bed liner, but I'm sure it will have a use some day, if nothing else as part of the outdoor kitchen that will be built some day. But, back to the front slope gardens. We didn't quite finish the bottom bed you can see due to the shovel breaking. We've modified how we're doing the beds a bit. The Lady of the House has short arms, and while a 4' wide bed is perfect for me, it's a pain for her. So the new beds we're digging are narrower, about 3' wide with a walkway between each of them. She can reach everything easily, and while it isn't the most space efficient design out there, we do have enough space on the hillside to waste a bit of it by having easier to work with garden beds. We can also expand them out to the left and right a bit, but we don't want to get too close to the steps since salt is used on the steps for our safety in the winter, and we don't want to get too far into the shade from the trees.  But the long and short of it, between the Lady of the House digging out a bed on Sunday, and the bit by bit work I've been getting done we are getting close to having every seedling we have in the ground. Once all of that is done, I'll feel better.
One of the things that we have planted recently is six squash mounds.  It was nice to get those done because we're really excited about the prospect of these particular squash. They are a local variety that have been grown from saved seeds in the area for at least 60 years. Beyond the ultra local part of it which makes us fairly certain they will grow and survive well in our climate, they taste AMAZING. We've bought them at market a few times and they literally only need to be cut in half, cleaned out, and roasted to eat. What we did for the beds is, buy a 50lb bag of compost soil,  mix the soil from the bag, what was in our vermicompost bin, and scads of rabbit poop together and make 6 mounds about 3' - 4' across each. In each mound I put two or three squash plants, and mulched with waste hay from under the rabbits. I did zero digging which my arms and legs thank me for, and voila, squash mounds. If this works out well I will be glad because while we don't have the money to do raised beds on a large scale, if I can at least get by with a little less digging I'll be happy.

 Among the other things from the seedlings we got in the ground was a Stevia plant. If you don't know what that is, neither did I, so here's a useful link. In short, it's a sweetener that isn't sugar. The Lady of the House is hoping to have a few going eventually and grow those to replace store bought sugar since there is no way in hell we will be able to grow sugar cane around here, and sugaring maples is an awful lot of work to get into along with everything else right now. So starting stevia it is! Now, stevia isn't That fragile, but as you can see Right we put it in a cage. That's also not to keep it from escaping to devour some girl named Audrey, it's to keep the dog or anything else from running it over until it's large enough that they avoid plowing in to it. After the garlic plant, we'd like to avoid seeing the more delicate plants killed off like that. Most of the other plants that need to not be plowed over are out of the dog's normal sprinting in circles path, so we're just going to rely on probability and cross our fingers. Down near the driveway are a pair of elderberry bushes that Michelle Chandler kindly gave us, and mid way down the driveway hill is this grape plant we got at the seedling swap that you can see Right. I was worried I'd killed it already, but it pupped up with a leaf sprouting, so we will see. I killed all three grape plants we tried to start last year, so I'm just hoping this goes better. We're still very much in the learning process phase on gardening, but we are enjoying it, and we are learning some things that work better than others.
For one, make sure you do amendments to your soil. We have leeks and small onions of the same age from the same source. The leeks ended up being put in a bed of pre balanced soil mixed with bunny poop and half mulched hay, and the onions ended up in a bed of rough soil that we didn't think to amend with anything before planting. The leeks are shooting up, and the onions are stagnating. We're going to be adding poop to the soil with the onions, but we can't mix it in the same way. So, relatively harmless, but definitely something good to know!

Lots more has gone on, but I think this is a good place to sign off for today. Thursday, bunnies and the chicken coop! Enjoy your day, and I hope it's as nice out for you as it is for us.


  1. Beautiful radishes! I'd also reccomend eating them in the French style, with butter and salt (and bread). And if you end up with really hot ones (that happens if you forget them), in my experience, cooked radishes taste like, well, nothing. Those were grocery-store rashishes, but after I cooked them in butter and water (with potatoes and brussel sprouts), they lost all their color and flavor.

    I'm so jelous of your garden (if not your GIANT rocks)! I've got 2 pots of mint, a sage plant that has bloomed, and some 2.5ft tall rosemary in the parking strip.

    1. Hmmm, we'll definitely have to try them French style. On the up side we like spicy things up to a reasonable level. I'm actually kind of sad that cooking them removes the flavor and color. Does any of that color and flavor leech into other foods they're cooked with?

      Have you considered trying some indoor gardening? I'm finding hydroponics and indoor gardening in general really interesting. I think it's probably the science fiction nerd in me, but the idea of gardening in a closed system is as fun to me as the space intensive gardening we're doing.

  2. Highly recommend you buy what we call a tanker bar. Pretty much a giant crow bar you can buy for prying rocks. We bought one from Home Depot when Mark was building our fence out in Kansas, which is full of limestone, and it totally saved us. He unearthed some pretty amazing rocks. It was a real life saver! -Claire

    1. Thank you so much for the recommendation! A tanker bar would probably greatly decrease the work of getting rocks out, and we wouldn't be breaking our shovels on them. Excellent thought, we'll have to get one when we have the money.