Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Master Gardener Workday

Last year, in downtown Lincolnton,
the local Master Gardeners installed several flower boxes on either side of the street
where the bridge spans the Rail Trail.
It's a little bit of greenery to soften the concrete all around.
We take time every few months
to maintain them as needed.

In the fall, hearty plants were installed to
 add some color to the dreary winter days.
These ornamental cabbages were a wonderful addition.
They were in need of replacing
and a few of us got together to do some work on the boxes.

It felt good to get out there and work on a team project again.
Due to Covid, we have not been able to get together
for workdays and meetings.
I've missed spending time with other folks
who love gardening as much as I do.
A fellow MG and I stopped by our local ACE hardware last week
and selected some new planting material.
It's always so exciting to see what is offered with the onset of spring!

We planted out the boxes, leaving space for future spread,
and I can't wait to check them out in the next few weeks
as they fill in.
There will be a new burst of color for downtown shoppers to enjoy.

The second project of the day was to work on the library garden.
This used to be a rose garden,
but because the mature trees are casting so much shade here,
the roses were not doing well.
It was decided to transform it into a shade garden.
We began by removing some of the border plants,
replacing some of the soil,
and tilling the area to be planted.

One of the replacement plants was this "lemon ball sedum",
which will spread quickly and fill in the area
next to the walkway.
The vibrant neon green will surely be noticed by passersby.

 It's a start. 
We will continue to add materials to this garden
as the season continues.
It feels so good to help adorn our town
with beautiful plant life.

Do you participate in any volunteer community projects?

Friday, March 26, 2021

Garden Friday


Welcome to our first Garden Friday of 2021!
And let me tell you,
spring has sprung in the Piedmont!
This week was spent enjoying gorgeous spring weather
and tying up those dreadful loose ends.

This butterfly bush was transplanted from a pot
to the area next to the work bench.
I'm looking forward to a bajillion blooms throughout the season.
I also managed to transplant some hyacinth and tulips
that needed a better place to call home.

The blueberries are in, folks!
This area on the south side of the property was just begging for something.
It gets shade in the morning, but full sun the rest of the day.
I took some of the fallen branches and made a long, narrow bed
and planted them four feet apart.

Since I hadn't taken a soil test to determine the pH,
I decided to add a bit of sulfur to each hole before planting.
Worm castings and egg shells were also added,
as they are to anything I plant.
Blueberries like an acidic soil,
and the sulfur creates the right balance.
I will be doing a soil test in the next few weeks,
not only for the blueberries,
but for all the raised beds in the vegetable garden.

We have six plants in all, of 4 different varieties, 
including climax, powderblue, premier, and tifblue.
These are all rabbiteye types, which require more than one variety 
for cross pollination.
The three shown here were this year's purchases from Extension,
while 3 others were transplanted from a previous location.

The Yukon Gold potatoes were planted in one of the large,
rectangular beds.
These had been split in half and left to "chit" for a couple of days,
as you can see the eyes are starting to grow.

These potatoes were received in our "Misfits" order a few weeks ago,
and since I couldn't find any organic Yukons in the grocery store,
I decided to try a little experiment.
They were buried about 6 inches under the soil,
cut side down, and should grow through the shredded leaves in a matter of weeks.
 We'll see how they do.
Some time was spent this week
creating a larger run area for the chooks.
Since we can't let them free range any longer
(read why here),
I wanted to make sure they had more room to groove.
We bought more fencing and wrapped it around the garden area.
This will hopefully allow them to catch any bugs
before they get to the goodies in the garden.
I've been adding a few things to their run
to give them more to do.

After last week's incident with Queenie,
most of the coop was dismantled to do a thorough cleaning.
One of the best features of the Eglu
is the ease in keeping it clean.
As this time around, 
it needed much more than just my weekly scrubdown,
I scoured all of the major surfaces to remove any trace of blood.
My sweet Queenie is no worse for wear,
but it's always hardest on the momma, isn't it?
I felt awful knowing that she had been hurt.
She's doing fine now,
and for the first time on Wednesday,
she actually climbed up on my lap and let me stroke her back.
We're making progress.

I've been keeping the chook feed and treats in metal containers right next to the coop.
It's so much more efficient this way, and I love that the squirrels can't penetrate the metal.
Take that, ya pesky varmints!

What a welcome change this week.  
It felt good to take time to tend to the garden
for as long as I wanted.
 The hope for this weekend is to 
get the beds topped off with compost
and do some serious seed sowing.

What's going in your garden this spring?

Friday, March 19, 2021

Friday Fotos

 With spring practically knocking on our door,
this will wrap up the Friday Fotos feature for this season.
The colors have been brilliant all around the neighborhood.

One plant I want to put on my "it's time to buy" list
is the forsythia.
I've never been too big a fan of yellow in the garden,
but this bush is so striking that I will be on the lookout
for a few to add to the landscape.
Until then, I will have to be content admiring my neighbor's.

This week, we have some good news and some bad news.
I'll start with the bad news (although it could've been worse.)
There was an incident on Wednesday evening while the chooks were ranging.
The neighbors' dogs got out and they headed straight for the chooks.
(These are new neighbors and we kind of agreed to keep the chooks in the run
in the morning so the dogs could be let out,
and vice versa.)
After much mayhem and scrambling,
the chooks got away and the pups were put inside.
I decided to put the chooks back in the run,
as they were fairly freaked out by the episode.
Being a newbie chicken keeper, I didn't think about checking them.
When C went to lock the coop up that evening,
he came in to tell me that there was a problem.
When I went to check, the entire inside of the coop
was splattered with blood.
Poor Queenie had been hurt in the commotion.
I cleaned her up as best I could and let her spend the night
by herself on the side of the coop where the nesting boxes rest.
This way, she could hear her friends on the other side of the wall,
but didn't need to worry about being disturbed.
Thankfully, yesterday she seemed fine and I was so relieved
to see her look up at me as I retrieved her from the coop.
It looks like their free-ranging days are over.
We are working on a larger fenced in area,
so that they will be able to forage safely.

On a happier note,
the snap peas are up!
Wouldn't you know that just as soon as I had gone to the store
to purchase fresh seed, I discovered that they had germinated.
Ah well, more seeds for fall planting.

The leeks are growing a lot more
since the row covers were removed.
It hasn't hurt that we've had ample rain in the last two weeks.

I'm not sure how this happened,
but the garlic looks like it's coming up in bunches.
I've never had this happen before,
so I'm not sure if it's me trying to emulate Charles Dowding,
or something funky going on with the cloves.
In any case, there will be plenty of garlic in our future.

I can hardly believe this is cabbage that I planted.
It's a first-for-me crop,
and something that I love eating raw,
so if the heads keep growing, it'll be a happy day.

The parsley is rockin'!
It has been drinking in every drop of rain we've had
and getting ready to host black swallowtail caterpillars
(I hope).

The existing blueberry bushes are leafing out,
which is amazing, considering that I wasn't even sure if they were still viable.

I have three bushes that will be transplanted to the new area,
where the three new bushes will be installed this weekend.
I'll be going to pick them up today at our local Extension office,
along with our new asparagus plants.
Soil acidifier was purchased this week,
so that I can add it to the compost mixture and give the blueberries a great start.
 One of the best things to happen this week,
was the germination of eggplant!
There are two varieties seeded,
one a long, Japanese type and the other
the Listada de Gandia variety.
I've grown both before,
and love to pan fry it to perfection.
Listada de Gandia eggplant
Isn't it gorgeous?

The first sweet potato slip of the season popped out
 this past week!
I'm so excited to grow my own slips
and have a windowsill for just that purpose. 
This is so easy to do and is so rewarding to watch.

 The gravel project is complete,
and we all love not only the way it looks,
but the sound of the crunching gravel when we walk on it.
Grateful to have finished something on our 2021 project list.
It wasn't easy, but it was very gratifying.

When we renovated the kitchen a year ago,
we decided we'd like to get some stools for the island,
but couldn't find exactly what we both liked.
IKEA saved the day with these bar stools.
They seem to be perfect for the spot and are so comfy!
It makes me love our new kitchen even more.
With spring officially just days away,
we'll be starting up with Garden Fridays next week.
Until then,
may the sunshine bless your homestead.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Red Lentil Fritters

Spending a lot of time cooking is not my idea of a good time.
I do eat clean food, scratch-made
and wouldn't have it any other way.
But seeing as there are other things I'd rather do,
(read g-a-r-d-e-n),
allowing a mere 30 minutes or less to creating healthy, hearty food
has been my mainstay for a good decade or longer. 
I've been vegetarian for most of my life,
and lately have found a renewed interest in
cooking vegan or plant-based meals.
These fritters fill the bill just fine.
They are quick to cook,
taste great and keep my belly  happy.
They are creamy on the inside, crisp on the outside
and packed with flavor.
I paired them with a dairy-free ranch dressing.
Ela Vegan is one of the YouTube channels I frequent,
and she has armed me with a multitude 
of new delicious, plant-based options.
My version is posted here below.
I hope you'll give 'em a go,
even if you don't have dietary restrictions.

Red Lentil Fritters
(Ela Vegan)
3/4 cup dry red lentils
1 1/4 cup water 
1 red pepper, diced 
1 medium onion, diced 
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped 
4 tbsp (or more as needed) chickpea flour 
1 tbsp chia seeds 
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped 
1 tsp paprika 
1 tsp ground cumin 
1/2 tsp salt 
Oil for frying
Cook lentils in water 20 minutes, until soft, drain.
Add all ingredients to food processor and mix
until well blended.
Fry 3-5 minutes per side.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Friday Fotos


 Welcome back to Friday Fotos,
where we share a bit of what we're up to
during the lull in the gardening season.
As you can see, these characters have been
keeping us entertained.
One of the tasks I got done early in the week
was to clean out all of the birdhouses on our property
and our next door neighbor's.
It is always amazing to see how intricately they are crafted.
Who wouldn't want to cozy up in this sweet nest?

 I spied a couple of bluebirds already scouting out a new home near the garden.
We relocated these three birdhouses from around other areas of the property.
We will most likely be adding a few more before spring gets rolling.

 Another job that has been continued
has been to create mounds of leaf mulch.
The weather has been dry and clear for over a week,
so the leaves that were sitting in bags since the fall
finally got dried out enough to mulch.
This stuff is gold in the garden!
 Some time was spent prepping the new blueberry planting area
by adding our own leaf mulch and worm castings.
We ordered three more blueberry plants from our local Extension office,
and this sunny spot will do nicely.
The soil will be amended with some type of sulfur product.
It would be best to do a soil test first to check the pH,
but with the plants coming in next week, time may not allow.
We will have 6 plants of different varieties with plans to add more in the future.

The broccoli is bolting, but still tastes good.
Did you know that you can eat the flowers?
They make a great addition to salads.

With the glorious weather we've been having,
I have been so motivated to get things done.
These welded wire panels were given to me by a friend
who no longer needed them.
I used them to "chicken-proof" the raised beds.

They were simply cut in half and stapled to the wood on the sides of the beds.
So far, so good.
The chooks go elsewhere when they are foraging.

We received a load of gravel this week
which will be used to create a walking path along the back of the house
and also to be used to make it easier to park our trailer on
along the side of the garage.
This has been on our project list since we bought the house
almost four years ago.
I don't know what it is,
but the sound of crunching gravel under my feet
does it for me.

We also went and picked up a load of compost
to add to the raised beds before the planting begins in earnest.
I'm thinking of adding some perlite to the mix
to see if it makes a difference.

One of my daily chores right now is to pick dandelions.
A friend of mine needs seeds that have not been sprayed
to use for her tinctures and teas and such.
Every day when I get home from my walk,
I peruse the property and pick whatever I can find.
She lives in Oklahoma and was told that dandelions don't grow there.
She might become a dandelion farmer,
although folks may not take kindly to that endeavor!

Here's hoping that you are blessed 
with sunshine and time to spend outside enjoying it.