August 30, 2023

It's at the end for 2023

As much as I enjoy having a garden, I'm not sad that the 2023 garden is all but finished. By this time of the season, it's more work than fun, but even then it's not hard work. It's merely persistent work. 

All things considered, such as heat, smoke, and not a lot of rain, the plants produced. I was extremely disappointed in the tomatoes due to a screwing I got from Ferry Morse seeds - read about that here - but even cherry tomatoes can be used for sauce.  Any tomato can be used for sauce. The variant is in how long you need to simmer the fruit to cook the water out. The plan was to make ketchup, but I made pizza sauce instead. I think with this last harvest and what is in the freezer, I can make another batch of pizza sauce and be good on that for a few years. 

The cucumbers produced well. I ran a couple of batches through the Harvest Right freeze dryer to preserve them, and I canned one batch of cucumber-pepper relish. 

Cucumber pepper relish
This year, I planted green beans for the first time ever. My grandfather always planted a type of pole bean, or climbing runner bean, but I chose the Contender bush variety. They did well and we had fresh beans for our table. Next year, I hope to expand a bit.

Sugar snap peas. I love 'em! He hates them. I've used up all the seed so they're off the 2024 garden plan. So are watermelon and cantaloupe. The melons were a bust. The ONE watermelon that formed wasn't edible. 

I am, apparently, a good grower of cabbage. We love fresh coleslaw, so cabbage is on the list for 2024. I'll stagger starting the seeds so I hopefully get a staggered harvest, and I'll go for a smaller number of heads. Coleslaw is great, but not every day for a month. 

The green bell peppers were an afterthought. I found a few seeds and planted them late, but there are pepper strips in the freezer again. I'm not sure the Great Stuff variety is the one for my garden. 

The Brussels sprouts were about 80% bust. Sprouts formed on two out of seven plants. I do have some seeds left so I'll give it one last try in 2024. Brussels, and cauliflower which died at transplant, are likely going to end up being off the plan for good after 2024, but we'll see.

Only one thing remains - butternut squash. This is the first time I tried this one and the results surprised me. There are ten butternuts growing but not yet ready to harvest. I'm watching for the stems to turn brown to pick them. Once they're all in, I'll process them to use for soup and pie filling. Butternut squash makes a sweet "pumpkin" pie. Just puree it and use the same as pumpkin puree. The flavor isn't that different.

Over the course of the next week, all the tomato plants will come out except for an experiment I'm trying that I saw on a Living Traditions video. The basil needs to be harvested and dried, and the calendula seeds will be ready to store. 

The bees are still prolifically working the tall Cracker Jack marigolds which has made me reconsider them for next year. I'm gathering those seeds and will cast them about the property. What grows in 2024 will grow, and I'll harvest those seeds to spread again. Doing this should develop a strain of plant that thrives in my micro-climate to keep the bees happy. The more bees the merrier! I'll plant a much shorter variety of marigolds in the garden. 

The year 2024 will bring its own successes and failures. I can dream, plan, and implement, but in the end, the garden does what the garden does. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, bees, pollinators, vegetables, flowers, herbs, cabbage, butternut squash, saving seeds Great Stuff peppers, Straight Eight cucumbers, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, home food preservation, freeze dryer

August 23, 2023

Yes, I can

It's always good to push yourself beyond what is easy. Don't be foolish and do something that will get you injured, but take that one step past the "easy" zone. I've been taking my own advice since I retired in May 2022.

When I moved onto my property in 1981, I had a lot of help. My father and grandfather were living and they were willing. I worked side-by-side with them to clear an area to build my house. I learned to use and maintain a chainsaw and how to use a log splitter. Fast forward a decade and more, and the Lord of the Manor moved in with me. My little homestead is somewhat high maintenance, but he wasn't daunted. He'd always wanted to live in the country and do all the things we do. 

Time marches on and is not kind to everyone. He's now in a wheelchair and can't do all the things. That means if I want to burn firewood, I have to take the responsibility of getting it done. 

I have a couple of wonderful cousins who come and help me now. I love them and appreciate them, but I also like to be self-reliant. Earlier this year, the Lord of the Manor, a retired mechanic, swapped out the motor on the log splitter to a newer one that starts with a key. 

Last year, about this time, we took down two very large maples that had the potential to fall and land on the house. A lot of the wood was handled last year, but the large trunks were left to dry for a year in the hopes they'd weigh a bit less. I worked on cutting the trunks into rounds when I had the chainsaw out, and some of the rounds are upwards of thirty inches across. That's BIG.

I wasn't sure I could manage a round that large on my own, but I wrestled two rounds over to the log splitter and got them split. Now I know that if I have to split them without help, I can do it. 

But come October, I'm calling the cousins for a wood-splitting party. They'll get free firewood and I won't have to work so hard! 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, splitting wood, firewood, log splitter, rural living, country lifestyle, autumn jobs, empowerment, self-reliance, a writer's life, maple trees, chainsaw

August 20, 2023

Moving day

It's a fact - tractor attachments are not cheap. Hell, tractors are not cheap! We have thousands of dollars tied up in equipment.

I'm not bragging. I'm just saying. And all you would-be thieves out there, remember this word - depreciation. It's not worth now what we paid for it. 

We decided to move the equipment to a new location after a delivery driver commented on our "collection." It gave both of us a hinkey feeling so a new site was selected and everything moved to a spot only a tractor can access. All the implements are now out of sight of the casual observer. 

We're not necessarily thrilled to have moved everything, but it was the prudent thing to do. 

There is a downside to the move. Our new spot has more room and The Lord of the Manor is already making plans to add to his collection with the purchase of a box blade. I'm not sure I can talk him out of it. The best I can hope for is to convince him an implement we'll only use two or three times a year can be purchased used. 

It's difficult to predict if I'll prevail, but at least it will be parked out of the way and out of sight. 

Sometimes that's the best I can hope for. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, John Deere, tractor implements, box blade, rural living, country lifestyle, wooded property, homestead security

August 17, 2023

Cabbage finished for 2023

The Beefsteak tomatoes weren't actually. They were a mystery variety of cherry tomatoes. 

The Straight Eight cucumbers didn't produce well despite being worked hard by some very dedicated little bumblebees. 

The Great Stuff peppers have been slow to get going, but there are peppers growing. 

Sugar Baby watermelon? There is ONE growing. 

Cantaloupe? Nary a one, again, not the fault of the dedicated bumblebees.

Butternut squash? Growing, baby. Looking good. 

Cabbage? Holy crap! My garden spot can grow some cabbage!!!

It's a good thing we like cabbage. The last batch of cabbage came out of the freeze drier this morning, and I'm glad to be done. The weather tomorrow looks to be cooler, so tomorrow I'll clean out the cabbage patch and turn over the soil.

Another lesson learned this year is to better stagger planting the cabbage. We had too many heads mature at the same time this year. We can only consume so much Cole Slaw before we begin to let it go to waste, which is not why I garden. 

I've learned a lot about cabbage this summer. Now I need to apply that to next year, when the time comes.

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, Harvest Right freeze dryer, home food preservation, rural living, country lifestyle, cabbage, a writer's life, KC Kendricks 

August 16, 2023

A minute here, a minute there

Today was a "catch up" day for me. My To Do List always has a few small items on it, ones I thought of in passing and hastily scribbled down. The scribbling has taken over the list and it was time to renew it. That means, for me, it's time to do those small jobs that aren't critical, but they bother me being undone. 

Early this morning I tossed a load of laundry in the washer and sat down to handle my mother's correspondences. Deuce and I walked two envelopes down to the mailbox and Cousin Dave came out to chat. 

Home again, the laundry went in the dryer and I lit a match. The burn ring had collected some wooden debris, pallets and such, and was an eyesore. It's gone now and I can report the old well still works great. 

Housework gets neglected in the summer months, so I put some things away in the pantry and straightened up the shelves. A thorough vacuuming job followed since Deuce is shedding at the moment. Then the clothes in the dryer were hung, folded, and put in the closet. Little chores were finished and crossed off the list. I felt like I walked in circles, and I did, but I dutifully stuck to the items in the order they were written. 

A quick call from a girlfriend netted me some old candles. I'll use them to make fire-starter this winter. The Lord of the Manor was working in the shed, and when I checked on him, he put me to work. FedEx saved me when they delivered a roll of woven ground cover from Grower's Solutions. 

I started dinner prep and then went to the computer to do some quick promos. That led to blogging at Deuce's Day and Between the Keys. Dinner went into the oven, and I watered the garden while it baked. 

After dinner, it was time to write a new list, which led to blogging here at The Hideaway.

Some days I wonder why I'm tired at the end of the day. Maybe tomorrow I'll sit in my garden and listen to the bees. More likely, I'll start working on the new list. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, rural living, country lifestyle, To Do List, retirement, gardening, homesteading, blogging, a writer's life

August 11, 2023

Is there time to catch my breath?

It's been a very busy stretch and I don't know where to start to record all of it. 

I've been busy in the garden although the pantry shelves don't reflect it. I've canned two batches of pizza sauce, four quarts of chili, a batch of cucumber relish, and seven quarts of chicken soup base. I've had cabbage in the freeze dryer and still have two large heads to process. The tomatoes are winding down, and I'm freezing them so I can make a batch of tomato sauce when they finish.

The butternut squash is doing very well. I hope to can at least seven quarts for whatever recipe I choose down the road. 

I've pulled the green beans, one tomato plant, and two cabbages that just didn't form heads. The garden looks nice and tidy again. I wonder if I want to do a fall planting? We shall see.

There's been mowing and weed-whacking to do, plus household chores. The front gutter needed to be cleaned out. A few days ago, the Lord of the Manor and I had a "staff" meeting - we had breakfast out at a restaurant. I won't name it because we don't plan to go back. We agree on what we'd like to accomplish before winter, and we prioritized our list in case we don't get it all done. We actually had a better discussion since we weren't home and distracted by this or that little thing. 

We weathered a severe and massive storm system that blew through here a few days ago. The worst went around us, but this morning, one tree limb came down. Storm damage or just because? It's hard to tell. 

Tomorrow it's back to mowing. Usually, we get to skip mowing at all in August, but the storm brought enough rain that it's needed. The weather really does control a lot of activity when you live in the country. We adjust and keep going. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, rural living, country lifestyle, gardening, weather watching, staff meetings, breakfasts, canning, home food preservation, freeze dryer

August 2, 2023

Just roll with it

This was to be the year I made and canned ketchup. It was not to be. I planted tomatoes that should have grown to the size of my fist, Beefsteaks, for slicing and canning. Canning them is fine, but it does require a longer simmer time to remove excess water. No biggie. It was not to be. The seed pack said Beefsteak but the seeds said, "we're cherry tomatoes!" 

Drop back two and punt. 

I've been harvesting the little 'maters and popping them in the freezer until I had enough to do something with. After a Saturday afternoon trip to the canning jar pantry, I decided I'd better make more pizza sauce. 

A few days ago I pulled the bags of frozen tomatoes out, plopped them in a large, deep pot, and cooked them down. Once they'd all gone to mush, I ran the mix through a food mill, put the sauce back into the pot, and let it simmer for several hours until it had reduced and thickened. From there, I made pizza sauce according to the recipe in the Ball Book. I ended up with seventeen jars (and seventeen seals) or enough for about the next year and a half. 

The tomatoes are still producing, and I'll have enough for another batch of pizza sauce. It wasn't the plan for 2023 but in the long run, it works just fine. I'll just have to make more pizzas. 

Sometimes you have to go with the flow.

The Lady of The Hideaway

KC Kendricks, The Hideaway, pizza sauce, tomatoes, gardening, home canning, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, plans change