April 26, 2023

It was a great idea: shade cloth

My office is in our sunroom. The Lord of the Manor built the addition for the sunroom back in 1995 or 1996 when he was still young(er) and mobile. It's my favorite room in the house and not just because he built it for me. It's got windows on three sides and is the next best thing to working in the woods. It's a front-row seat to observe the deer, squirrels, foxes, chipmunks, and the occasional raccoon, possum, skunk, groundhog, turkey, and even snake. One day it was even the neighbor's cows! 

The windows are wonderful and the space wouldn't be the same without them. The biggest drawback is that in the summer, even with central air, the room heats up between ten and four o'clock. In past summers, I had an umbrella on the porch that I opened and moved a little bit every hour to create shade. The problem with the umbrella was that even with a heavy base, it liked to fly away like it was looking for Mary Poppins! 

I put up a good set of black-out curtains last year and they helped, but I didn't like closing off one side of the room during the day. I like to look out over my domain. I decided to try shade cloth this summer, and I got it put up. I can already tell it's going to make a huge difference. And when it gets really hot, I will close the curtains to help with utility costs.

It's not a fancy setup. We got some 2x2 exterior grade lumber from Lowe's and made simple frames that we affixed to the porch railing with zip ties (cable straps to some). The 70% shade cloth was purchased from Amazon. I used simple hooks to attach one side of the shade cloth to the house (it has grommets), draped it over the frame, and used more zip ties to fasten it to the frame and the railing. 

The shade cloth creates enough shade to make sitting on the porch in the afternoons bearable. I can already tell it will help keep the sunroom a lot cooler. If it works for the entire season, I'll take some time over the winter and figure out if it needs improvements for next summer. The shade cloth will come down for the winter and be stored in the shed. 

Is it perfect? Not really, but it's functional. That's all that matters to me. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, rural living, country lifestyle, shade cloth, keeping cool, cutting utility costs, home & garden, sunrooms, critical thinking solutions, home office, a writer's life, writing, romance novels, gardening

April 23, 2023

Cucumbers 2023

I will freely admit I am not a master gardener, but a novice at best. My grandfather was a Master. Oh, he never went to school or took classes for it, but he knew it. He lived it. His parents and grandparents' survival depended on the crops they raised and "put by" for the next year. He worked the garden right beside them. From my front porch, I can still see the area where they planted and it is about three acres in size. 

I wish I'd been able to learn more from him, but I needed to work a full-time job. After work, there was my first marriage to tend to, not that my efforts there were successful. Now I have time to garden and I'm learning almost from scratch. 

Pop grew cucumbers from time to time, but they weren't a staple in his garden. I recall that my grandmother would tell him she needed to make a batch of pickles (bread and butter) every few years, and he'd plant some cukes. Once the pickles were in the jars, the family got salad cucumbers because my grandparents didn't eat very many of them raw. 

This is the first year I started cucumber seeds inside. Nine seeds sprouted that have been transplanted into buckets in the garden patch. Cucumber is a fruit and is about ninety-five percent water. The seedlings are very tender and can't tolerate colder temperatures the way a tomato plant can. 

I knew I took a big chance getting the cukes outside this early. We're still ahead of our last frost date but my instinct tells me that while the temps are dipping into the mid to high thirties, we won't have frost. Nonetheless, I decided to hedge my gamble and move the cukes and tomatoes into the greenhouse for the next two nights. We had a good rain yesterday and the air is damp. I expect the greenhouse will add a layer of protection from the dampness settling on the leaves overnight. 

Planting early wasn't something my grandfather did, but we have new and improved varieties these days. If my cucumbers wilt due to the cold night, I still have time to direct sow more seed. If that happens, I'll consider it a lesson learned and stick to direct sowing from here on out. 

Live and learn.

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, rural living, country lifestyle, cucumbers, tomatoes, greenhouse, freeze warning, a writer's life, simple country pleasures

April 20, 2023

Did I stick to the plan?


original plan
So I made a plan. I even made a nifty little diagram using MS PUB, a program I happen to like a lot. The question is, am I sticking to the plan? 

What a silly question. 

No, I'm not sticking to the plan, at least not closely. And the bottom line is, it doesn't much matter. 

The cucumbers and green beans switch places. The Brussels sprouts are going around the edge of the garden and sharing a grow bag with a marigold. Frankly, I don't have much hope for the Brussels starts. They didn't do well for me last year but I decided to try again. If they fail this year, I have seeds for one more try - the make-or-break try. 

April 20, 2023 plan

And I tried to overwater the poor little cukes. They snapped back as soon as they got to spend time in the sun yesterday. Today they seem rather happy in their respective buckets. 

All-in-all, it's going very well. We've reached the more traditional date for starting seeds outside, so I'll be planting in the Greenstalk over the next few days. 

Now I just have to keep a close watch on the weather forecast. If necessary, I can move all the buckets and bags into the greenhouse, but I hope that does not become necessary. It would be a lot of lifting but I could do it. 

I've drawn out the task of planting so I could really enjoy being in my little garden patch, but I'm ready to be finished. Then the tasks will be keeping everything watered and fertilized, and keeping an eye on pests. I'm looking forward to sitting in the middle of growing things and relaxing. I already have a chair in place! 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, green peppers, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, cucumbers, bunching onions, garden plans, growing things

April 15, 2023

We need this rainy day

A rainy day view

It's a wonderfully rainy day here at Holly Tree Manor. It's been very dry, so dry in fact that the county government issued a burning ban. Twenty or so miles west of us, several wildfires have occurred in the last few days so this rain is a blessing to the firefighters. I'm always worried about wildfires living as we do. All it takes is one fucking idiot discarding a lit cigarette on the mountain trails to change the mountain forever. 

We've been busy with several projects. The Lord of the Manor is working on modifying an aluminum ramp to more easily load his power chair into the van, and changing out the engine on the log splitter to one that has an electric starter. We've reached the point where a pull-string starter no longer works for us. 

I've been busy with my little garden setup, getting seedlings to the greenhouse, and planting brassicas. Having an abundance of tomato seedlings, I even planted a few tomatoes into their buckets. My instincts say we're unlikely to see a hard frost this year, but if it looks like one will happen, those buckets can be moved inside the greenhouse. It's not a problem. 

Everything here has turned green. I "threw the mower" at the yard to chop the tops off the high spots, but after this rain, I'll need to actually mow. I took a morning and cleaned up around the edges of the yard, picking up and raking downed sticks and general tree debris. Anything large enough to damage the mower blades went on the brush pile. 

We built a rough frame for the sunroom porch and I draped 40% shade cloth over it to see if that would help keep my office cooler. It appears to work so I've ordered a denser shade cloth to make a more permanent installation. The shade umbrella I've used for several years has an unfortunate propensity to fly away in the wind. I'm not buying another one. 

This rainy day gives me the chance to catch up on a few things I've let slide. I want to get my planting diagram into the computer, all neat and tidy, so I have it for next year. I may even get some laundry done! The weather may have convinced me to take it slower today, but that's fine. A little break never hurt anyone.

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, greenhouse, rural living, country lifestyle, rainy days, a writer's life, shade cloth, wildfires, woodlands, log splitter

April 2, 2023

Feeling stymied

Stymied: To be an obstacle to; prevent the advancement or success of; thwart or stump: weather that stymied attempts to locate the missing hikers; a math problem that stymied half the class. 

I feel stymied by our wonderful weather. The sky is blue, the sun is bright, the grass is greening-up, the breeze is blowing, and it's a mere 45F outside. It rained yesterday and the ground is damp. 

I can't mow, I can't dig in the too-wet dirt, I can't set the begonias out on the porch for another round of hardening-off. 

But there is hope! Tomorrow, if all goes as predicted, I'll be able to cross off a lot of items on my To Do List. I'll be able to mow (or maybe convince the Lord of the Manor to do it), get the begonias to the greenhouse, plant sugar snap pea seeds outside in a few grow bags, sow a row of spring onions in the raised bed, and plant a few seeds in starter packs once the begonias are out of the way. I may even make a quick trip to the landfill if Himself is willing to do a few things for me this afternoon. 

I'm definitely feeling frustrated this spring. There are so many things to do, that I want to do, and I need to wait out the weather, at least until tomorrow.

Tomorrow's 10-day forecast is a beacon of hope. After tonight, there is only one night that the temperature dips into the thirties (Fahrenheit). Since my little greenhouse isn't heated, I plan to cover the begonias at night with an old sheet for the next little while anyway, so it'll still work for me. 

There are, of course, things I could do today if I had more of a domestic bent. Housekeeping and laundry have never excited me the way being outside does. I'd probably die if forced to live in the "concrete jungle." I do enjoy home food preservation, but I don't have any canning projects lined up. 

I'll figure today out soon. I'm never stymied for very long. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, home food preservation, rural living, weather, greenhouse, country lifestyle, a writer's life, Greenstalk, seeds, sugar snap peas, seed trays,