Hazy Days

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winter squashes july 10The second week of July has started being more normal, so we’re in the 90′s F. The garden is needing water every couple days. It’s really starting to get going: I’m thinning and picking the chard most every day, and the chickens love it like candy. That and the turnips. The squashes are growing gangbusters, and the first tiny little tomato is turning ripe.

It’s become brutally hot, as always in July and August, so the task list has morphed into “maintain” from “bust your buns to build”. Lazy days of summer is right…

I haven’t gotten started on building a drainage well up by the fence where the storm water run off is damaging those two new beds. The idea is to rent a skid steer with a backhoe arm and dig a 2-3 foot deep trench about 18″ wide and 6 feet long.

If I line the trench with composite hardboard, which comes in 4×8 sheets, and cover with some sort of metal screening, it should catch that big time run off I get from the neighbor’s yards before it completely ruins the beds. Then I can go from there. There’s no point in working the soil or adding compost if it is just gonna wash away.

Happily, I’ve settled into a bit of a groove with the chickens. With the heat, their water is changed 3 times a day so it’s cooler and cleaner. I won’t say clean, ’cause they are anything but, shall we say, “litter box trained”? When the heat indexes hit triple digits, I turn the hose on, set to mist in the afternoons to prevent overheating. If it’s really bad, I put a tad bit of honey in their water as an electrolyte.

flatsThey get sprouted feed (organic whole grains and seeds) twice a day, and at least one flat of greens (pic) each day to add to the chard and turnip greens.  Oh and random amounts of birdseed, kitchen scraps, aging cucumbers and the like. Their feed has simplified, as I’ve learned what they need and what they really don’t.

A day’s worth of feed for the 12 girls is 1 cup each of oat groats, hard red wheat berries, black oil sunflower seed, and millet. Then 1/3 to 1/2 cup of green split peas. The ration soaks in Nature’s Magic (liquid kelp and humic acid mix) for 8-10 hours to encourage it to sprout.

I got some 2 gallon buckets and drilled holes in the bottoms as well as part way up the sides to rinse the seeds as they sprout. If ya don’t rinse, they turn to a gummy mess and mold, which would make the girls really sick. After 2-3 days, they have sprouted and I add about 1/4 cup of Fertrell Nutribalancer, and a capsule of organic fish oil before scattering along the run for them to hunt and peck at.

I’d like to build wood framed greenhouses when the runoff problem is solved; then I could easily rotate the chickens from one bed to another each season. Could even grow their greens and fodder in there with them to free up the garage. A simple small coop with that hardboard for siding can be assembled in a corner of a greenhouse easily enough.

A greenhouse fabric will last far longer than plastic to cover the top and I wouldn’t mind leaving chicken wire on the sides all year round–keep those pesky rabbits out of my greens! Chickens in the garden are good, eating overwintering bugs, scratching up the soil, devouring weed seeds, fertilizing… I hope to have one ready for winter. Maybe pie in the sky given my pace, ie permanently stuck in low gear. But wouldn’t it be nice?

A Might Windy Last Night

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1044247_10153162906980413_606692402_nHere’s a great idea from motherearthnews.com. Wish I’d seen this before driving all those t-posts! It uses 3″ pvc for posts, and this pic shows galvanized conduit to make the cage though you could just as easily use smaller pvc or wooden dowels. An added plus is pouring water into the big pipe and letting it slowly water your tomato plant!

We’ve had several days of high heat and humidity here at the end of June. (The worst day our heat index hit 107F). Thursday night brought a rather noisy thunderstorm, and my garden took a good hit. The tomatoes are on the ground, untied until they reach 12-18″ tall. They’ll tie up fine, not too worried about them. The turnips and beans were laying down too. Waiting for the sunshine to dry them and see if they stand up again.

I think the chickens were maybe a bit frightened, too, as they were remarkably subdued Friday morning. Kinda bedraggled, poor dears. So I talked to them while rinsing out their bowls and bathing tub, refilling their feeder. They aren’t really eating much, I believe because of the heat, but the mealworms got them on the hunt pretty fast. Egg production has dropped slightly from a regular 9 per day to 7 or 8.

They won’t like that I uncovered their tractor run, but it needs to dry out a little in there. They huddle up in the tractor every afternoon, despite the shade cloth and a tarp over part of their run. I think it might be habit, really. But a bad idea when it’s in the 90′s F.

I’ve been turning on the misting nozzle on the hose in the afternoons, and it’s funny watching them parade through it, then scratch like crazy at the muddy soil digging up insects. It’s only going to be in the low 80′s today, so they’ll just have to make do under the tarp run so that tractor area can dry out. Their laying area is totally enclosed, so it is dry still. We’ll see if they lay more now that it’s cooler

sprouts do better in garage end of juneI’ve been sprouting trays of seeds for the girls: microgreens of broccoli, alfalfa, turnips, rye, beets, lettuce, and kale. The garage floor is always warm now and bam–sprouting overnight. They are growing very well, thanks to an initial soaking of Nature’s Magic (kelp/humic acid mix). I’ve come to love that stuff. Best fertilizer I’ve ever used.

http://www.natureslawn.com/magic.php

They say microgreens take a couple weeks, but if they continue at the pace they’re on, it will only take a week or so in the garage. Indoors, where it’s cooler, probably 2 weeks so that’s the winter schedule, I guess.

As they really begin to leaf, they will need more direct sun to green up than the garage windows provide, so the seedling’s mornings will be spent on the front porch for sure, soaking up the rays. Hopefully they get all lush and ready for chicken munching fast!

1001159_10151677352965700_473618695_nI’ve been thinking… yeah, dangerous I know. But the chickens really loved the grass clippings I shoved into their run. Not for the greens so much as the bugs and insects in it. Kicking around the idea of a solar light, I figured they’d probably perch on it, peck it and such and maybe damage it.

But this came across my facebook feed: painting a pot with rustoleum’s glow in the dark paint. That would attract some bugs in the evenings for them to chase down and snack on!

I don’t have to plant it, just turn it upside down and leave it there. They could perch and peck all they want on it and it won’t matter. I’ll keep an eye open for some big heavy pots to try this with. To me the picture looks like the pots are lit, but maybe not. An experiment about to happen here!!

Hopefully now that the dangerous heat has broken, I’ll get more accomplished. There’s a pvc tractor to build for pasturing the girls, and the garden really needs more beans seeded in. I’d like to start converting over that shed there in the garden to a winter coop for the girls too.

When it’s so humid you can’t breathe at 9 am, the work load lightens, ya know?

Power Tool vs Hand Tool

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root veggies making itNow that the rain has moved on… the coolness and moisture was good for settling in the transplants and perking up the seedlings!

The lettuces just don’t like the heat enough to bother germinating. But everything else is doing surprisingly well! I have strong turnips, beets, chard, and beans. The onions and carrots are now starting to get their roots under them too, though they are always slower to get going.

Happily, all but one of the squashes came up. There’s spaghetti squash, Lakota squash, and pumpkins, all putting on their second set of true leaves. Dare I say the squash bugs haven’t turned up yet, or will they take it as an invitation?

maters and peppers unmulched yetEverything got a good dose of Nature’s Magic (kelp/humic acid mix) today, too. The tomatoes always take a couple weeks to really settle in their roots before taking off, and I’m pleased with their general health. The peppers are looking happier, too. And my seeded in cucumbers are all up. I gotta get the wire fencing up for the big guys to grow on soon!

Since it was raining for days, there’s no mulch on the mater bed yet. That’s slated for (fingers crossed) tomorrow.

I chose today to start whacking down the badly overgrown rows from last year. There are two 4ft wide boxes, about 65 feet long each. I’m really thinking an electric hedge trimmer would be a much better idea than my machete! Power tools vs hand tools…

one row whacked downMy neighbor has a gas powered trimmer, so I may ask to borrow his. That way I can get the stubs down to the soil level. My plan is to cover it first with a black landscape fabric, then a black plastic tarp. Sorta a poor-man’s solarizing! I want to really kill these weeds without having to use sprays.

There’s another box next to it, where I found my blooming onions, and a MASSIVE oregano plant. It’s three feet tall and wide! Just wow!!! I’ll have to cut down the weeds and tarp around them, so I can get a bunch of oregano cut and dried at leisure.

overwintered onions and giant oreganoSee, I told ya it was huge!!

I’m waiting for the onions to start setting seed, my first real stab at collecting my own seeds. But good Lord, what does a girl do with THAT MUCH OREGANO?!! I’ve not cooked much with fresh herbs, but it seems I’m gonna start!! I have another little oregano planted with the tomatoes. Never run out, will I?

I’ve got room for 2 more tomatoes and 2 more peppers, so I believe I will start looking for some big Amish Paste maters, and make my own sauce! If the little globe basil can keep up!

Much to do…

I’ve stopped taking the serretia, btw. My joint pain worsened considerably, and I’m testing to see if that was the cause. I’ll restart it at a very low dose again soon. How my body reacts to things is a trial and error game, I’ve learned.

My mornings have been starting lately with homemade shakes. So far the peanut butter chocolate is my favorite! It’s just coconut milk (1 cup), peanut butter (3 tbsp or so), unsweetened cocoa (1 tsp), and 2 packets of truvia. It has the quick calories, protien, and fat to hold me when I’m hungry. The coconut flour experiments continue, and I’m trying lots of different recipes. Wasn’t pleased enough to share any of them yet. Working on it!

Here’s a couple recipe’s I’ve not made yet, but plan to. One is for homemade mayo;

http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2009/06/homemade-mayonnaise-recipe-that-tastes-great-finally.html

Homemade-RanchAnd the other is for homemade ranch dressing. If ya’ll have a good one, please share it in the comments!

http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2009/06/homemade-ranch-salad-dressing-recipe-or-homemade-ranch-veggie-dip.html

Plenty to Do, Plenty been Done

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Still plugging along, trying to get the garden planted, one day at a time. The weather’s turned to summer all of a sudden, from 70′s and rain to mid-90′s F. To make matters worse, the neighbor’s water test found coliform bacteria so they shocked the shared well–it’s been three days and we still can’t use the water, despite running the hoses and sinks for 2 days.

beans and chardI’m worried about my seedlings, only just now popping up.  So far the soil is moist a half inch down, but with another 95 degree day, I’m afraid I’m going to have to go and actually buy water for them. The seedlings are my future groceries, but the water would eat up a good chunk of my grocery money for this month.

Talk about a hitch in the plans… But maybe tonight or tomorrow the water will be usable (think hopeful thoughts!)

This pic is the beans and chard. I’ve also got beets, spinach, and lettuces up along with the squashes and turnips. That’s encouraging!

The clucking girls have settled into a routine, laying about mid-morning. I’ve been giving away dozens of eggs at a time! I really wanted to get my garden finished for now, so I could get started on their pvc hoop house/tractor. Not today though–after driving t posts for two days, I’m pretty much shot.

Here’s the results of the past couple days of garden work: 6 tomatoes, 2 peppers, globe basil, dill, thyme, oregano, and parsley planted. There are cucumbers, carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and beets sown, too. Can’t water them in yet, but they are sown. I didn’t get the mulch down, fencing up, nor even all the posts driven for it yet.  And there’s more seeds to sow. Plenty of work to do, but plenty’s been done!

tomato row mostly planted

The rest of the day is mostly a day off: time to rest the battered body, and try to acclimate to the sudden heat. I may go to the natural foods store, and pick up a bunch of water on my way home, too. The pantry’s looking pretty bare!

Fifty Feet Worth

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Well now, quite a lot got done Tuesday morning: about 50 feet worth of a lot in fact. How ’bout that? Seems my foray into natural enzymes is off to a good start. We’ll see how it goes over the long haul, but I’m fairly impressed with the anti-inflammatory effects of that Serretia so far.

The Serretia, Syntol, and Nattobiotic came from enzymus.com three days ago. Fibro isn’t kicking my ample backside despite all the physical exertion of the past couple days. Oh I’m not remotely pain free, mind you, but I should be gnawing on a fencepost from pain and I’ve not even taken a Tylenol in two days. Hum.

Check it, boys n girls–50 feet worth of rock picking, seeding, marking rows with compost, and mulching foot paths. Nevermind the not picking up; I’ll get to that after the 60 foot bed on the right is done!

first bed finished

The first 4 rows on the left of the bed closest have  Bloomsdale Spinach, Rouge D’hiver lettuce, and an unnamed gift pack of red romaine in them. The 8 narrow rows have Kuroda carrots, Australian Brown onion seeds, Mangel beets, Bulls’ Blood beets, and golden globe turnips.

It’s awfully late for cool weather loving lettuces and beets and such, but it’s my test patch. Hopefully shade and plenty of watering will keep them from bolting or being bitter.

The quarter circle that doesn’t have compost topping actually has mangel beets in it. As I shoveled a foot path, I added the soil there and sowed the beets. Shouldda’ done that first, I suppose. Oh well, my own mini version of crop circles!

The next 3 rows on the left have golden wax beans, swiss chard, and purple bush beans. The three on the right have Provider bush beans, and Paris Island romaine. It’s hard to see, but the long dark strip down the middle of the remainder of the bed has spaghetti squash, Lakota squash, and New England Sugar Pie pumpkin seeded in.

All was watered in with an eyeball-measurement of  1/2-2/3 cup of Nature’s magic per 2 gallons of water in that bright blue watering can. The soil was still moist from all that rain, but raised beds being raised, it wasn’t soggy. Whew, that’ll do for one day!

“The girls”, aka the chickens, are sorta silly creatures (grin). They are settling in pretty well, scratching and pecking away now. Someone, who knows who, likes to lay her egg in the grass overnight still. And the rest have decided to lay their eggs all in the same nest box. I opened it up mid morning to discover 6 eggs in one box! I left an egg in the bottom four boxes, and hopefully they’ll get the idea that all the boxes work the same.

eggs and more eggsI do believe a big breakfast-for-supper is in order tonight. Yep, a couple of ‘em are dirty, but I’m not washing them until I’m ready to use them. If ya wash the coating from the chicken (the “bloom”) off, the shells become porous to smells and liquids. Not to mention bacteria.

The shells have also become lighter in color since the girls came. I wonder if that’s the organic feed? I haven’t eaten any yet, so I don’t know if the yolk color has darkened. Guess I’ll find out tonight? I’m going to be awash in unwashed eggs, since  my neighbor is going to be gone for most of the next two weeks.

That means all 12 chickens will be staying with me, in that little chicken tractor. I’m moving it four times a day, and still having to take feed out more than twice since I don’t want to just dump a bunch of feed in the feeder: I don’t know how much they are going to eat yet , and I didn’t want any to sit there an get all yucky in the dew and humidity.

Besides, they forage more if the feeder isn’t full, as I am told. As soon as I come out with feed they head right to it, though. I’ve not let them out as of yet, either. The last thing I want is to be chasing chickens around ’cause they won’t go back into their coop. It’s still a bit early to try letting them out. And I did see a chicken hawk circling while I was in the garden this morning.

So what to make with my lovely new fresh pastured eggs? Good old fried eggs and bacon? Scrambled eggs and steak tips? I’m thinking about a salmon quiche. 4 eggs, a couple of crumbled strips of bacon, a cup of cream, shredded cheese, some sauted onion and garlic… that really sounds good doesn’t it?

Alternative Treatments and a Little Gardening

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2chronic-fatigue

Tuesday morning began with pain medicine. Hum.

I DESPISE taking pain medicine, for many reasons, not the least of which is they often trigger migraines for me. But the back simply wouldn’t unknot. There’s an old saying around here in the Ozarks: “Got a catch in my git-alongs”. Boy did I have a catch!

So I spent the morning reading various websites. You notice my last post was a re-blog about tumors and GMO products, which is pretty much everything that isn’t “certified non-gmo”.

My last yearly physical found a mass on my right ovary that was likely too big to be fibrocystic. So I’m trying my darndest to get as far away from gmo foods as possible, and checking out alternative treatments for both Lyme/co-infections and cancer. I would have to deal with the tick diseases, in addition to the ovarian growth and the fibromyalgia, sorta all at the same time.

I don’t have health insurance, so we decided temporarily on a depo shot (progesterone is a natural counter to estrogen) and having another pelvic in August while I try to get medicaid. And it’s another incentive to get off the diet sodas especially. That and smoking are my last two vices. In the meantime… I found a link to new information about fibromyalgia that I read first on Science Daily. It says:

“fibromyalgia is an immune system dysregulation disease relating to the production of protein molecules called chemokines and cytokines by a certain type of white blood cell.”

http://www.imperialvalleynews.com/index.php/news/health/3843-breakthrough-research-reveals-pathway-of-fibromyalgia.html

sdfgsgfsThere are a few natural treatments in particular I’m researching; soursop fruit (graviola) and essiac for the possible tumor/cancer, serrapeptase and syntol for inflammation control, TOA-free cat’s claw and banderol for the Lyme and co-infections.

Graviola is reported to be a powerful anti-cancer supplement, even as a stand alone treatment. I still need to do more research on Cesium Chloride. Right now it is more of a second-line for me because of the potentially strong side effects. The graviola doesn’t have known side effects.

https://www.amazonthunder.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&ref=Graviola&products_id=6&affiliate_banner_id=7

BTW, It never ceases to amaze me it the price of some supplements. The essiac for example, has a cost of well over $300 for a 12 week treatment. That’s priced way out of my budget. Essiac is out, for me anyway. They’re HERBS for crying out loud! Another irritation is the number of knock offs and low quality supplements.

The supplement industry is gigantic and hugely profitable, so it isn’t a surprise that large numbers of opportunists operate in it. At the same time, though, I don’t want government regulation (ie, FDA) of the industry. We’ve seen what the FDA does: go after organic producers and rubber stamp Monsanto and company. The FDA is as much a profiteer as any snake oil salesman.

I do wish there was a good way to sort through the offerings wisely, so as not to be taken in by profiteers. The only way so far is to research and research and research like some investigative journalist!

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I’m very interested in two or three of these products https://www.enzymus.com/products/index, as they have quite a few supposedly high quality supplementary enzymes, probiotics, etc. The Serretia is a potent anti-inflammatory, the nattokinase fights the biofilms Lyme etc create to protect themselves, and the syntol is a potent probiotic mix blended with enzymes to prevent a herx reaction from yeast die off.

The TOA free cat’s claw and banderol are highly recommended alternatives to long term antibiotics for chronic tick diseases, of which I have several. This site has both products. http://www.herbsforlyme.com/category-s/208.htm 

Even after rejecting the essiac, I’m still looking at around $300 total for one bottle of each product that seems promising. And taking handfuls of pills is not something I do readily. I might begin with the graviola, syntol, and serretia this month, to deal with the ovarian growth and the inflammation from both the fibro and chronic tick diseases, then add the others next month.

Wednesday the pain levels were back down enough, so I went to town on my garden. I added 20 bags of manure compost, 10 pounds of gypsum, 50 pounds of sand, and a bag of Espoma flower tone to each of the two summer beds. Then I tilled! I use an electric Mantis, and it’s just fine for raised beds.

squash bed finishedHit quite a few rocks, but I’ll be “weeding” rocks as long as I live in Missouri. So here’s a pic of my squash bed all ready for planting. You can see the corner of the tomato bed too. It will need stakes/fencing for the tomatoes, cucumbers, and peas before I can plant. But we have a few days of rain starting tomorrow, so planting will be next week!

Haahhhhh. Satisfaction by way of dirt under my fingernails: priceless!

Change of Plans: Easier Day

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hummm… yeah. Good morning Fibromyalgia. You and your companion, Chronic Fatigue, are saying hello again, huh? Thanks, not.

imagesCABGL0NKNot surprisingly, two days of heavy physical effort have increased my pain levels and exhaustion.  Today’s task list has to change because of it, from digging  and turning the first bed to working on another bed. The bed I’ll be starting on today has been filled with soft soil I don’t need to turn.

That’s how it goes, gardening or anything else, with chronic illnesses: make a good start, ease off or alter, plug along just under the threshold of “too much”. That’s okay, I’m flexible that way, after all these years. The trick is being able to recognize where that ever-changing threshold of “too much” is, so you can stay just short of it.

No one knows exactly what causes FMS/CFS, but what triggers a flare are things like too much exertion, too much stress, an acute illness like the flu or allergies. The hallmark of these two different but similar illnesses is major disruption and malfunctioning of various body systems.

The endocrine system, sorta the “master” system which controls all the others, gets all out of whack. When the hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal glands go sideways, they take everything with them! There are combinations of neurological problems, hormonal imbalances, migraines, digestive problems, insomnia, muscle pain and tremors, nutritional malabsorption… you name the difficulty and it will likely fall into the list of symptoms for one or both of those diseases.

I take a prescription for the fibro: Gabapentin, up to three times a day. I usually just take two at night to sleep better, and that leaves me with one extra I can take during the day on days like this when I hurt more. It does help considerably, as does taking my thyroid medicine, my Intramax liquid multi-vitamin (at twice the suggested dose to combat nutritional deficiencies), and knowing when to take it easy.

starting the easier till bedI do have to un-bury the extra landscape fabric and wrap it over the boards, but that I can do sitting down for the most part. I can use a hoe with a recently broken handle to pull both the gravel back and the soil back, and sitting down to do it will not add much to the exertion my Fibro and fatigue are fussing about.

I’m thinking this will be my summer planting bed now: it can be ready faster! Once the fabric is dealt with, I can add 2 or 3 bags of sand, a stingy dressing of manure compost, a heavy application of organic fertilizers and till it. Another day, most likely. The bags of sand are 50 pounds each, so moving them when I’m struggling is a big problem.

Also on another day, I need to remove the top 4-6 feet, since the guys placed it way too close to the maple tree and it’s roots. I’ll just shorten it up, since it’s nearly impossible to grow anything under a maple, with it’s aggressive root system. That shouldn’t be hard, but I would have to deal with lumber, screws, skill saw etc. Not today.

A good 1/3 of this bed is shaded by a giant maple tree for most of the day, which gives me a place to try growing peas, lettuces, beets, turnips, and carrots. Hopefully the shade will help the seeds germinate, and keep the lettuce from bolting in the summer heat.

The remainder of the bed will easily hold all my tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, chard, onions, and herbs. Once tilled, I can sink my posts for the fencing, borrowed from a neighbor who isn’t using it. Posts at 8 foot spacing is much less work than a post for each and every tomato! I can top dress with a non-manure compost once the truck is in working order again.

nearly completed coopHere’s another thing I can do today: touch up and finish painting my chicken tractor! My neighbor brought it down last night. You can see a bit of bare wood in this pic, in need of paint. And we do need to get the wire around the run, but I will get the wire, feeder, and waterer after the Memorial Day weekend.

nearly done painting

Some more bare wood, showing the egg collecting doors. The inside where the nest boxes, roost and such are in the picture below. The painting I can also do sitting down! There’s almost always something I can do, unless I’m just really feeling rotten, and I’m not that bad, thankfully.

nest boxes in coop

Preparing My New Garden Beds, Part One

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wrapping fabric

I got my camera working again! Yay! So here my second post of the day–same subject, but with pictures of the step by step pics of what I’m doing in the veggie beds. I’m amending clay soil, (not so yay), and I have a lot of work ahead of me, and this is only part 1 of the bed prepping.

First things first, I had to get the excess landscape fabric out of the beds, as it would tangle up my tiller. If there was enough of it, I just pulled it over the wood side and secured it with the gravel. In places, though, it wasn’t wide enough to do that so I had to pretty much ruin a box knife blade cutting it as close to the wood as I could.

The long rows are 64 feet, and I wish I had been more explicit with where to start and stop the beds because there’s a good 15 feet at the top and end of the row that is kinda wasted. On one end of the boxes, I’ll have a generously sized area for making compost, and the other I’ll probably build cold frames or a small bed of some kind.

I’m also not going to as much trouble with a couple of the beds as I am with others: I will be dumping the manure there to mellow out and growing cover crops during the summer months. That way I can spread out the overall kill-ya effort of amending that much new soil. Each of those beds are over 600 sq feet, and that is a considerable amount of digging and tilling when you add it up.

turning over the soilIt needed to be turned and loosened, having had a work crew and its skid steer driving over it as the beds were built. A digging fork is required, (as are pain meds for my achin’ back). I’m also having to weed out clumps of sod, and pull out the rocks big enough to damage the tiller as I go.

I will be removing smaller rocks as I encounter them over time. A fact of life in Missouri. I have heard of people even sifting their soil. It’s not very practical on this scale, but something I might consider doing where I will be growing carrots or other long root veggies.

You can see how sparingly I’ve added the bagged manure compost in this bed, intended for immediate planting. Bagged manure can be pretty “hot”, able to burn plant roots even if you can’t smell it. If I can smell manure, it’s most definitely fresh enough to burn. So only a very light application for the summer season beds, and I will be adding a no-manure bulk compost by the truck load instead.

I could certainly add it now, but I think something’s wrong with my truck’s transmission, and I hesitate to put much weight in it until it gets to the shop and checked out. Whether applied before or after digging, there should be at least 2-3 inches worth on the soil before it gets tilled in. The more liberally you apply compost the faster you get better soil.

This being my second day of hard labor, I’m moving much slower. I normally work every other day so I don’t get nailed by a serious fibromyalgia flare from over-exertion. Fibro pain is fast to come, hits hard, and goes away slowly, so those of us that have it need to pace ourselves. If I get too far in a “hole” with my health, I also risk the reappearance of tick diseases, as my infections long since went sub-acute/chronic. That is what stopped me dead in my tracks last year, for an entire year. Careful is important!

what grows bestWhen I said I was chucking rocks, I really meant it! This is what grows best around here! That’s a 2×8 it’s sitting next to, and I’ve hauled off more than a dozen this size or better in just half that bed. That’s why I was groaning when I discovered the guys had inadvertently put my rock/debris pile back in the beds with the soil.

Like most gardeners, I have my favorite tools. Over the years, I’ve reduced the number, too. There are less than dozen tools in my shed, but there are less than half a dozen I use constantly and they multi-task. A digging fork, sometimes called a potato fork, is a must-have for pretty much anybody. From digging out deep rooted weeds, to turning soils or compost piles, they are invaluable.

I also have a transplant spade, with it’s long and narrow shape being just right for the majority of holes I need to dig. For bigger holes, I have a saw-toothed shovel which will remove more soil than the transplanting spade. I use it for large shrubs or planting trees, especially if I have to get through sod or roots. A good trowel is what I use to plant annuals, bulbs, or small transplants. For pruning, one good hand pruner and a larger tree trimming pruner are all I need.

favorite toolA rock rake will level gravel or loosened earth, spread mulch and compost, even rake an area of lawn if the clippings are building up. I also have a good mower and a small Mantis tiller, which is the entire collection of “power tools” for gardening! But my all time favorite and most used tool is the one in the picture. I don’t even know what it’s called, and don’t care, because I call it useful (aka, my claw)!

I have one with a long handle for when I am doing a large area, and I have one with a short handle for when I’m sitting down. I use it to weed, break up clods of earth, de-thatch small areas of lawn, create furrows for seeds, work in fertilizer, move and aerate compost piles, prep small patches for grass seed, even plant shallow rooted plants.

I may have to dig these garden beds once more in the fall, to add more compost but after that, my claw tool is pretty much all I’ll need once the soil is loamy and soft. I try not to disrupt the natural structure and microbial life in soil more than I must. Prepping a new garden bed means the soil has to be heavily disturbed, so I will be planting with mycorrhizae for awhile, and using soil stimulants like Nature’s magic quite a lot for a couple years, to encourage the soil to rebuild its own balance.

close up early morning petunias

To end on a really happy note… my wave petunias are really starting to grow and show off! Yeah, I ran out of mulch, and will take care of that once the truck has a clean bill of health. But these happy little faces greet me every morning along a 6o foot stretch of flowerbeds around the house.

How’s that for a sweet “good morning” every day?!

My first roses at our new house are still small, just planted this spring, but there will be more pics of them as summer progresses, particularly when the daylilies around them start to bloom. The blue holly are also growing nicely. I did quite a lot of work in early spring creating and planting those beds, so you can be sure you’ll see lots of pictures!

Okay, Here Goes Nothing, or Maybe Something

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Having “gone down” with Lyme Disease last July, the veggie garden came to a stand still. Everything came to a stand still. I still am not well, but hopefulness being what it is…

With two large rows to clean out from last year’s as yet unremoved plants (awful!), knowing they need to have the dead plants pulled and the waste seeds killed by a weed torch, and knowing I’m still not feeling good–stubborn me is about to start some spring seeds.

There is one row I built that was never planted last year, so that’s where spring season will start. Getting the other two big rows cleaned out and ready for summer crops will be load off my mind. And I have many more rows to build and fill as time goes on.

But I’m looking at my seed packets in need of starting: Annapolis and Jericho romaine, Space Spinach, Amazing Cauliflower, and Sorrento Broccoli Raab. I think I’ve gotten too late a start for some of the other broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. I should have started them early in February.

The direct sow seeds are next month, and I at least have some Mr. Lincoln peas, Tannaus and Red Ace beets, and Tendersweet carrots. And next month I’ll also start my summer tomatoes and such.

Others that need starting now are the Fairy Tale Eggplant, and the New Ace/Sweet Gourmet/Early Sunsation bell peppers.

So out come the flats, the organic potting soil, and the Soil Moist with endomychorrizae. I also have Green Guard Seed treatment. Hopefully that will get things off on the right foot.

I have lots more seeds to buy, as well as insect and frost blankets etc. Next month. The difficulty will be summoning the strength and endurance to clean out the two big rows.

Here’s a link giving me at least some idea of the weather predictions for my area this spring season: http://www.almanac.com/weather/longrange/MO/Springfield If they’re right, then april will be cooler than normal! Might get a good result with the peas and other cool weather crops this year.

Shot of Color…by Lisa Harmon

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The melons are so close! And the tomatoes are starting to ripen. The lower branches have small ones only because of the past heat, but the upper parts are setting big fruit now. I’m really loving this cooler weather, though I admit to not doing much more than checking.

Things get in the way, don’t they? Obstacles.

I had looked forward to the temps dropping and rain starting, to get back out in the yard with seriousness. July’s lethargy proved to indeed be a huge flare of borrelia and babesia infection, with a new tick disease along for fun (Rocky mountain spotted fever).

I started a new treatment protocol to get those illnesses dealt with, and thought I’d give a go at something in the garden. Sadly, even the b-12 shot didn’t give me the endurance to do more than pull a few weeds and check the melons.

Grass, thought I, waving grass doth need a haircut. So out came the big mower, on I went, and out we go. I got three passes with the mower when the belt driving the blades broke. Hum.

How a person handles obstacles is what determines their success in life, to be straight honest. Giver uppers have little more than complaints to show for their failures. The blindly (foolish?) persistant lack only the complaints.

It’s the person that can see an obstacle as either a warning to readjust, or reconsider that seem to move around the difficulty. What’s that old Marine saying? “Adapt, improvise, overcome”? Then if all else fails, persevere.

So go ahead, you obstacle stuffing troublemaker, stuff some obstacles in my way if you must until the Divine rebukes you. Stuff if you must, but Missouri can be a pigheaded girl.

I will keep working on that raised bed garden.

I’ve got a minimum of 6 months of treatment ahead, so progress will remain slow, mainly the result of fits and starts when I’m able. There is, however, a full 85 feet of bare soil just waiting for broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, and other yummies.

I’m still waiting for all the seeds and soil treatments to come, but that’s alright, as we are looking at a hot September in the forcast. It may have to be late in again. Broccoli raab is ready in just 48-55 days, lettuce in a mere 30 days. I’ll get what I can.

The garden is none the worse for wear at the hands of my near neglect, as you can see. The pic at the start of the post is my melon patch overflowing, too.

I have managed to weed out some grasses in one walkway, and got started in another, which is gratifying, but it waiting so long I’ll have to sweep the grass seed away before mulching.

I check the beans every day, the new ones, and I’ll soon have fresh green beans. That’s gratifying, seeing all those white blossoms everywhere!

The tomatoes are a full 5 feet tall now, loaded with growing fruit. Despite the new diet restriction about nightshade family fruits like tomatoes, I’m still gonna have myself a fine good BLT when the first slicers are picked.

How about a shot of color? Orange!! My little Baby Pam pumpkins are seriously ripening and setting new fruit with our highs only in the 80′s.

We’ll go back to 90′s next week, but at least there’s no triple digits in sight.

That should mean more pumpkins now, and those looooong anticipated melons starting to slip off their vines and onto my plate.

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