June 11, 2021

Garden fail: Radishes

 This is my year to experiment and learn about container vegetable gardening. As I've mentioned, an in-ground garden would be decimated by the deer, so my focus is on what I can grow in my little garden corral. 

Here's the link to a video of the deer in our woods: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0JXEfL2vqk . As destructive as they are, we love watching them. 

It's a given that not everything I plant is going to prosper - case in point is the radishes. I purchased good seed from Burpees and got really good germination. It was downhill from there. 

Radishes are said to detoxify your blood, help lower blood pressure, boost immunity, and taste de-lish! I know not everyone agrees on that last item, but we like them. My plan was to serve up some fresh in a few salads and dehydrate the rest. Once dehydrated, they're stored in airtight containers until you re-hydrate them for use.  

But back to the garden fail. I did pull a few young radishes out for salad toppers, enough to be sad we missed out on the rest. 

Good seed germination doesn't equate to a good crop. Lots of things can go wrong like the gardener putting the grow-bag in the greenhouse and allowing the radishes to get too warm. Radishes are a cool weather crop, liking temperatures anywhere from about 40F to 70F. When the weather prognosticators predicted a hard frost, I set the bag in the greenhouse for protection - and then forgot to take it out the next morning. (There was NO frost, by the way.) And so the radishes died before their time. 

I'm disappointed, but I'll try again this fall. Radishes mature quickly so if I plant again about six weeks before our average first fall frost date, we should, hopefully, be able to harvest a nice little batch. 

Maybe, come fall, the radishes we harvest will look like the ones in the picture I ripped-off of the Internet and I can post a good photo for everyone else to use. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

June 8, 2021

Trail cam provides proof of activity

 Last fall, on an impulse, I purchased an inexpensive trail cam to see what actually goes on in the backyard after dark. It's been both interesting and disappointing. 

We expected to get a lot of deer footage and we have. Unfortunately, there are times the trail cam doesn't activate until it's almost too late and we get a two-second blip. Other times it works the way we want it to. A few months ago it gave us a five-second video of a doe with a very bad limp. We agreed it was unlikely she'd survive the summer. Now, thanks to continuing footage, we can report she has healed and has just a slight limp. She was living alone in our woods but is once again traveling with her group. She can keep up with them when they run so we're hopeful all is well with her. 

We'd also hoped to discover where the foxes pass through the yard so we can set the Havahart trap for them. They've got to go. Not only would they eat Loki if they could catch him, but they carry a virus dangerous to dogs. 

And then there is the raccoon. The raccoons around here can carry rabies. He needs to be dispatched if we can catch him. Common sense says this one is probably fine since we don't see him during the day but it's a chance I don't want to take. I go outside with the dog after dark and I've had an unholy fear of rabies all my life. 

One thing I've learned is that I should download the footage from the trail cam more frequently. Clicking through thousands of images takes a lot of time. If I made it a weekly habit, it would only be a couple of hundred images to view. 

But sometimes the cam picks up some very strange wild life, something almost unexplainable. Something that amuses at least one of us. 

The Lord of the Manor does occasionally do a little work, and now he has proof.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

June 7, 2021

Now that the fragrance is gone

Every year I look forward to the peonies blooming. We like to sit on the front porch in the early morning before the sun lifts over the trees and starts to cook us, and the fragrance is wonderful. The peonies are a sort of homage to my grandmother and mother. They were fonder of the plants than I am, but I like the visible connection to them and to my younger years. When the peonies bloom, I hope any rain holds off for a week or so because rain ruins the flowers. This year, we got to enjoy the blooms and the fragrance for about ten days but now it's time to deadhead the bushes. 
An unfortunate side-effort of peonies are insects, notably bees and wasps. They, too, love the fragrance but I draw the line a coexisting with wasps. 

This morning, before the sun topped the trees, I got the clippers and went out to do the deed. Much to my surprise my helper, although four-footed and black, isn't who I expected. Loki doesn't care much for work. 

His idea of help could have gotten him hurt. Every time a leaf waved in front of his face, he took a swat at it. It didn't bother me but I doubt he'd have enjoyed it if the clippers caught his paw by mistake. 

In the end, the job was finished without bloodshed. Next spring will bring new blooms and I'll remind the cat he doesn't enjoy gardening. 

I doubt my words will have any influence on him at all.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor 

June 6, 2021

A light harvest: dill and spearmint

I would love to have a true herb garden. Herbs are lovely, fragrant plants just on their own, but they have genuine uses, too. I have memories of accompanying my great-grandmother into the woods and watching her fill her apron with mysterious green leaves. My mother used to drive up the mountain to one particular spot and cut some sort of mint for summer tea. She tried to transplant some year after year but it wouldn't grow in her garden. My problem is the deer and how they nibble on everything. 

Spearmint grows around the edges of my patio and I confess, by the end of summer I'm yanking it out like it's a weed. But this time of year, I'm harvesting the leaves for my summer brews. I like nothing better than to put a few spearmint leaves, a slice of lemon, and a chunk of real ginger in a water bottle and drink it down. 

I noticed this morning that the dill has reached the point where it will bolt and set seed if not cut, and the spearmint looked ready to flower. It was time for a little harvest. 

Both are easy to dry. I use a dehydrator, but you don't really need one. Chop and spread the dill out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and it will likely dry fine. You could also put it in the oven with the light on overnight. That little lightbulb creates more heat than you'd think. You can also tie the stalks together and hang the bundle upside down to dry, but I've found the little dill leaves can drop off and make quite a mess. 

My mother cut and hung spearmint, and that works great. I take a shortcut and use a dehydrator. Once the dehydrator finishes, I put the leaves in a quart mason jar with a moisture absorbing pack, vacuum seal it with the food saver gizmo, and store it. How long does it keep? I doubt there's a good answer to that. I keep mine until when I open the jar the fragrance is gone. 

One day soon I'll plant a proper herb garden, but until then I'm happy to have made even this light harvest. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

June 5, 2021

Acquaintances and grape jelly

Yesterday, I decided to make a run through the Walmart grocery store to stock up on a few things and obtain an out-of-season produce item. The Lord of the Manor needed... okay he didn't NEED grape jelly, but he wanted it. I knew my local grocery didn't have Concord grapes, but a quick online check said Walmart did. We do prefer to buy locally, but asking him to wait until fall for his next peanut butter and jelly sandwich would have made a grown man whimper.  

So I'm roaming the aisles at Walmart and encounter an acquaintance. Upon learning I'm on vacation and looking forward to retirement, the old gal dissed me. SHE is never going to retire. SHE likes working (i.e. living under the rule of another). SHE will never "bother" with a garden as long as she can shop at Walmart. 

Well, excuse ME! 

I have two takeaways from that meeting. One, don't shop at Walmart at 9:00am on a Friday because she may be there, and two, I'm not the crazy one. 

I was happy to get home, restock the pantry, and make a batch of grape jelly with no additives or preservatives. I followed the Sure-Jel recipe and the jelly set as it cooled. Sure-Jel has never failed if I've used their formula. I do need to get a canister of pectin for "rebel" recipes, though. 

It wasn't until I lined up the jars I'm putting in the pantry for a picture that I realized I'd lined them up like bowling pins. Subliminal? Yep.

The lids I used are the Tattler lids. Tattlers are reusable lids made in the USA. I like the idea that they can be used over and over for as long as the gasket is okay. If the gaskets start to wear out, you can purchase a bag of them separately. Tattler lids seal just as well as regular one-use metal lids. The initial investment sounds like a lot - $11.00 for a dozen lids and gaskets, but it's a one-time outlay of cash. Metal lids that are used once and discarded, which can't be found in any store around here in June of 2021, need to be purchased time after time. It just makes sense to me to buy a few boxes of Tattlers as I go along. 

The day awaits. We have a market not too far away called Ivy Hill Farm. We're coming up on cherry season and I happen to like cherry jelly. Maybe I can convince the Lord of the Manor to take a little drive today if they have some available. It may be time to order another box or two of lids. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

June 4, 2021

Brood X 2021

 They have arrived. Brood X. 

We've been hearing the cicadas singing for about a week, some to the south and some to the east, but none right on top of us. I think that's about to change. 

Yesterday, I went out to check the trail cam and pull any footage off it, and lo and behold, there was evidence of one of the little buggers hanging on the tree above the camera. It had shed its adolescence shell and is now on its way to breed as a bigger badder bug.

This morning, they're singing away! I suspect one of the cousins is now surrounded and by tomorrow, we will be, too. 

I remember the last time Brood X emerged, seventeen years ago. I didn't think much about the mystery and marvel of it at the time. This year, no matter how loud, I'm not going to complain. 

This may not happen again in my lifetime. It's a sobering thought. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor