July 27, 2022

The jungle in the woods

There is a jungle in the woods. My garden corral is growing abundantly! For 2022, I've ended up with four different varieties of tomato, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, peppers, and potatoes.  All of them are growing in containers to maximize space. An in-ground garden isn't possible because of the number of deer we have living in our woods. I have plans to expand a bit, but it will take time, as in time to install a fenced enclosure. I want to design a system that is both expandable and movable, and lightweight enough for me to handle on my own. With the Grand Solar Minimum, I may need to move my operation to an area that gets fewer hours of direct sun. 

One thing I really need to get over is planting every seedling transplant that survives. I have a difficult time discarding any baby plant. The Veranda cherry tomatoes are proof of that.  

The bottom line is that I'm enjoying having a little garden to tend. It's not enough to feed us all year, but having a few fresh things on the table is something we both like. I ended up having only seven cabbage plants survive, but that's seven batches of fresh Cole slaw during the growing season.

I've learned a lot this season. I know why half my cabbage didn't make it. I didn't plant it correctly. Now I know. I also know I didn't get it under netting fast enough, too. 

Enough blogging for now. I need to take a basin and harvest some of the Roma tomatoes and at least four cucumbers. I might have to pull up and discard one of the cauliflowers that has been looking poorly. There's no point to continue to water it if it is dying. 

There's a certain peace in the garden corral, and we all need a little bit of that in our day. Where do you find yours?

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, tomatoes, cauliflower, simple country pleasures, country living, rural lifestyle, Grand Solar Minimum 

July 25, 2022

A good choice - Veranda cherry tomatoes

Last winter when I was choosing seeds for the 2022 garden, I came across the listing for Veranda cherry tomatoes at Burpee. I specifically wanted a variety of cherry tomatoes that grow well in containers and these certainly fit that requirement. 

Right from the start, the seeds sprouted into healthy little seedlings. There was such good germination I gave away half the seedling transplants to a cousin and a friend. The way these plants produce, I could have given away more! I don't think I lost a plant.

These plants are, as advertised, great for containers. I've been harvesting cherry tomatoes for a couple of weeks and there is no indication of the plants slowing down production. I wanted cherry tomatoes for summer salads, but I've also been tossing them in the freezer bags to add to the mix when the Romas begin to ripen and I'm ready to make tomato sauce. I've freeze-dried several batches, too, along with a couple of cucumbers. We'll see how that works out next winter when I want a fresh tomato and cucumber salad. 

My only "complaint" about this variety is that the compact plant hides a lot of tomatoes beneath its leaves. The vines are very strong and tightly woven so sometimes it's difficult to get to a ripe cherry without crushing it. I've learned to harvest the ones growing underneath before they get too ripe and let them sit on the counter for a day or so. 

I can't go into my little garden space without pulling off one or two fruits and having a snack. Veranda cherry tomatoes are definitely on my list for next season. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, cherry tomatoes, simple country pleasures, rural lifestyle, freeze dry, garden planning, Burpee Seeds, country living, gardening

July 24, 2022

Purple peppers - surprise!

I grew bell peppers and jalapeno peppers in my 2021 garden, and I had a bumper crop! Just a few weeks ago I pulled out a couple of small bags from the freezer to make Hot Pepper Jelly and there is plenty of peppers left. I'm probably going to freeze-dry them before the summer is over to make room in the freezer.

When I planned my 2022 garden, I had no plans to grow peppers. Then I was out shopping and saw a seed packet of mixed bell peppers for a dollar, and because growing peppers is fun, I got the seeds. 

Fast forward until today and one of those "mixed" pepper plants has purple peppers. Now that is cool!

I certainly didn't expect anything other than green peppers. I thought there'd be enough to have two rounds of stuffed peppers and that would be good for this year. But you know what? I really like these little purple bells. They look really cool chopped up in potato salad. Next year, purple peppers are part of the garden plan. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, purple peppers, vegetables, grow your own food, simple country pleasures, rural lifestyle, container gardening, garden planning

July 23, 2022

Mom's last houseplant

My mother has been in a care facility for almost seven years. She has Alzheimer's Disease. Her world has become small and peaceful, kept that way by what is, I believe, the very anti-depressant drugs that put her there. There is not any sort of dementia in her family history. It's just her. 

My stepfather died in May of 2019, and in preparing their house to be sold, I brought my mother's last surviving houseplant to my place. I'm not sure how it is someone can kill a cactus - other than sitting it in a basement window and forgetting about it. That's what happened to it. 

I didn't think it would revive but something in me had to try. It's a living link to Mom and I needed it. 

At the time, it was only the large central plant, and that wasn't doing well. The base was pinched and the cactus had fallen over. The dirt in the planter was hard as concrete. I brought it home, set it in the kitchen sink, soaked the dirt, and hoped for the best. 

I tended it for several months, amazed it hadn't died. It had, in fact, perked up with careful watering. Then one day I noticed strange bumps on it and soon realized those bumps were baby cacti! It was not only living but reproducing!

Now several of the baby cacti have shot out roots and it's time to see if they'll continue to grow on their own. I have another planter filled with what is marketed as cactus soil and today is transplant day. 

Everything I know about cacti is here in this blog post. I'm flying blind, but I'm taking the chance to see if they'll grow. 

I'm trying to keep it going, Mom. I hope it works. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Alzheimer's Disease, cactus, houseplants, country living, rural lifestyle, simple country pleasures, traditions, 

July 21, 2022

You'd think we'd all learn - never say never

 One of the first projects the spousal unit undertook when he moved in with me was to, ostensibly, repair a small porch on the west end of my house. It needed new decking and one thing led to another and in the course of his first summer here, he'd built the sunroom. 

It's a wonderful space with windows on three sides. It's about 12'x12' so it's not too small. The south side has a sliding glass door that opens to a 10'x12' porch. The interior walls, ceiling, and floor are tongue and groove pine. It's my favorite space in my house, so I suppose it's little wonder my office migrated to the sunroom. 

For a good number of years, I didn't have blinds or curtains at the sunroom windows. It's not like we had close neighbors, but things have gradually changed. Off to the north, they cleared quite a few trees on the other side of the stone fence. I think they plan to sell that lot. The lady to the south has had a string of tenants, none of whom made good neighbors. 

A few years ago I conceded that having blinds up might be a good idea so people can't see in at night. Most evenings, after dark, I'm here in my sunroom office. This summer, my first being retired, I've given in completely and I've installed curtains. 

And not just any curtains, no. I went for room darkening drapes. If one wishes to be invisible at night, one should go all the way and manage the heat of the daytime sun and thwart the winter wind at the same time. 

I hung the panels today and I must say I like them. At the moment the panels are pushed back. Loki, being a strange little cat, needs to get used to them being at the door. He freaks over big changes in his world. Tomorrow I'm sure I'll close the south side panels to block the afternoon heat and see if they really do keep the room cooler. 

I had said I'd never have blinds or curtains but life moves on ever faster and our needs change with the times. I still have the option of opening the panels and raising the blinds to enjoy being surrounded by the trees. On snowy days, I can swivel my chair around and enjoy a cup of coffee as the snow comes down. 

If anything, I've expanded the ways in which I can fully enjoy my sunroom office. I wish I'd done this sooner. 

Never say never, just live and adjust. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, simple country pleasures, never say never, room darkening drapes, rural lifestyle, summer heat, options, sunroom, home office, Loki

July 18, 2022

EMP - real threat or YouTubers feeding frenzy?

EMP stands for electromagnetic pulse. The source of an EMP can be natural or artificial and can occur as an electromagnetic field, an electric field, a magnetic field, or a conducted electric current. Lightning is a type of EMP. Our sun can cause EMPs. An EMP can be created to deliberately to incapacitate societies. An EMP can have a nuclear source. 

Scary thought, isn't it? 

For the last year or so, I've enjoyed watching some of the homesteading channels on YouTube. These days, some of the better ones seem to have gone over to the dark side. 

Taking that trip is pretty easy. We have an idiot for a president, our economy is flailing and failing, our supply chain isn't recovering from the lockdown days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and our Congress is more worried about the upcoming elections than upholding the Constitution and doing the job they're being paid to do. Yep. Everywhere you look there is chaos. 

Our sun has cycles, and we're in what is called a Grand Solar Minimum. A Grand Solar Minimum occurs approximately every 200 years. A normal solar minimum is part of the sun's normal 11-year cycle. Apparently, the sun is in a period of reduced solar activity when it comes to things like solar flares. 

So what's really going on? I don't know. I'm not a scientist. 

I am confused, though. If we're having a solar minimum, why is it hotter? Why are some people saying the sun's radiation has increased?  I've lived long enough to know that yes, our weather has cycles. I remember that around 1992-93, the summer was really hot. I remember because of where I was working and how one of my co-workers would not shut up about how miserable he was in the heat. Would. Not. Shut. Up. 

The bottom line is that very few of us have the power to do anything about the sun. Other than voting wisely, we can't control our own government. We can't control the actions of other governments. So what should we do?

For me and mine, we are living our lives, day by day, as planned. Some of us are building our pantries, but that's not about preparing for the end of the world. It's so much easier to prepare meals if you have what you need in the pantry, and it's a lot more economical to eat today at yesterday's prices. Having a well-stocked pantry reduces stress, too. Some of us simply don't like to go shopping every day. And then there are the supply chain issues that continue to plague everyone. I'd hate to have to make pancake batter from scratch. 

I really believe that some of all the doom and gloom on YouTube is to get more views. More views equate to more money and a sensational thumbnail snags the attention. Content that plays to fear keeps people coming back. Does it suck you in?

We're doing our best not to get sucked into a dystopian view. But if some day the grid goes down and even our generator is fried, we'll at least know what happened. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, EMP, YouTube, preparedness, end of days, power outages, dystopian world view, country living, rural lifestyle, pantry, preppers, solar minimum, 

July 14, 2022

Eight Weeks

Eight weeks ago today, I walked out of my office for the last time. Where did the time go? 

I like to stop and take stock of where I've been and what I've accomplished. It helps me plan what I need to do next. I don't sit and commiserate about what I haven't done. I may reprioritize a few things, but that's what these moments are about. 

In the last eight weeks, we've actually crossed a few things off our ever-growing To Do List. 
-Purchased a van for the spousal unit
-enlarged the paver pad where the van is parked
-painted ramps
-cleaned and reorganized the shed
-canned four projects
-installed three raised beds
-re-stoned area around the heat pump
-firearms practice
-met with a tree trimmer
-pension paperwork, etc.
-write and blog
-lunch with former CEO

There are a few smaller, more incidental items on my list, things we do all the time like going for a haircut or doing the laundry. Suffice it to say, I'm amazed at how quickly my days fill with activity. 

One thing I've not accomplished is settling into a daily walking routine. On May 29th, I took a tumble in the creek and I still have pain from that. It's not curtailed my daily activities, but I've walked the trails just enough to know the injury was far worse than I thought and is not yet fully healed. I'm sure I'll get there, but it's a slow process. 

To sit and ponder on the fact it's already been eight weeks brings to light just how quickly my impression of time passing is changing. Eight weeks seem to have passed in the blink of an eye. It's already mid-July and the hours of daylight shrink with every passing day. We're in that stretch when it's hazy, hot, and humid every day. But this will pass and I need to be ready when it does. 

This is a year of transition. Some things I need to allow to unfold. I'm adjusting to a new normal, a normal that will continue to change. Sitting on the sunroom porch and watching the hummingbirds feast on the bee balm passes for excitement, some days. I'm not at all unhappy about that. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, retirement, hummingbirds, gardening, simple country pleasures, rural lifestyle, country living, daily routines, to-do lists, canning, 

July 9, 2022

Weather watching - let it rain!

Living in the country, i.e. rural America, I'm a bit of a weather watcher. With so many outdoor opportunities, it helps to know how wet one may get if one avails oneself of the aforementioned opportunities. Seriously.

We have a local man who maintains a climatological records website which is loaded with a lot of information. As we've entered into a rainy spell, I thought I'd go take a look at the records for July. Boredom is good for surfing the Internet. 

We tend to think of the Dog Days of Summer as a hot, dry stretch, and as we get into August that is proven true. Of course, the "Dog Days of Summer" actually refers to the position of the dog star, Sirius, in the night sky. 

This July marks a lot of "firsts" for me. Now that I'm retired, the fact that one of my Saturdays brought enough rain that going outside to do anything is impossible, doesn't make me snarl. I'm not sure how long it's been since I could simply sit with a cuppa and watch it rain. Maybe I've never enjoyed rain-watching this much before. It's a soft rain, so soft I can't hear it on the roof, but there is the rippling sound of water trickling through the downspouts that threatens to lull me into sleep. 

The rain is nurturing my garden with a good soaking and filling the rainwater catchment system I have for the garden. The grass (and clover) are green and healthy-looking, as are the trees. I don't think Loki the Cat is very happy, but he'll just have to find a quiet spot and sleep the day away. 

And with this wonderful blessing of rain, my thoughts drift toward those in the western United States who are dealing with a severe drought. Even with the drought and the potential lack of water, there are countless new houses being constructed. That's a major disconnect for me. I don't see how permits are granted to build when there are real and present water availability issues. Is this drought media hype? I don't think so but I have to ponder these things for the kernel of truth contained. 

Many times when I have questions, I look toward my faith for guidance. There is often judgment in that, and I accept it. I can't change it. But maybe I can add my voice and change something else. Maybe my voice can help bring soft, nurturing rain to the farmers around the world. No flooding - never that. Just gentle rain, in its season. 

Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. - James 5:18.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Book of James, rain, simple country pleasure, dog days of summer, droughts, rural living, country lifestyle, gardening, relaxing, weather watching

July 6, 2022

I thought it might take longer...

I've been retired for six weeks, and this is the week Lazy came to visit. She's not a welcome guest, but since her visit does coincide with the beginning of the Dog Days of Summer, I can't fault her timing. 

It's too hot to be outside during the middle of the day. If I'm going to do anything, I'd best be done no later than about ten o'clock. That's why it took several mornings to paint the porch ramps. As soon as the sun rose above the trees, I was finished for the day. Seriously. 

To make it worse, the spousal unit and I didn't do anything productive during the afternoon hours, but quiet time spent together likely did us a lot of good. Being together 24/7 is a big change for both of us. Not even during the Covid lockdown of 2020 were we always home together. I escaped every weekday to go get the mail and check to make sure the office was still standing. No one else was in the building so I accomplished a lot - A LOT - in a short amount of time. 

Today I met a co-worker for lunch, which was very nice. We chatted and she caught me up on the latest gossip. It was a pleasant interlude, but I was happy to hop into my car and make my way home. 

So I could be lazy for the rest of the day.

It was raining by the time I got home so that last statement isn't as bad as it seems. I've been working since I got my first part-time job at the tender age of sixteen. That is a long time to be gainfully employed. 

I knew Lazy would arrive. I can indulge her for a few days, but no more. She won't get the better of me. 

Oh, but doing nothing feels as good as I always dreamt it would. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Dog Days of Summer, lazy afternoon, retirement, life changes, black Labrador Retriever, country living, rural lifestyle, coworkers, simple country pleasures