Saturday, May 31, 2014

One More Week!

I can hardly wait! One more week until the Fifth Annual Plant Swap!  Wheee!  Come on, June 7th!

As you can see, I've started my stash of "spare" plants to trade.  Or, give away.  It doesn't really matter to me if I come home with an equal amount--mostly, I don't have a home for these little guys and I'm sure someone else will love them.  So far, I've got German Chamomile, garden sage, Balcony Mix petunias, red cabbage, rosemary, and horehound.  I'm sure I'll have an extra San Juan tomatillo or two, and perhaps an extra tomato plant up for grabs by the time next Saturday rolls around.  If you happen to find yourself in the neighborhood, we'll be hanging out at the picnic shelter in Pioneer Park, on the shores of the lovely Hay River in Prairie Farm, WI.  Swap starts at 10 AM and goes until 1 PM, but come early!

Oh, and you don't need to have anything to trade.  We always have lots to just take, plus rumor has it that there may be a come-and-buy-donation table with some lovely plants, proceeds going to the Prairie Farm Community Garden.  Come, trade, take and buy!  It's going to be a great day.  (Plus, there's coffee!)

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Ladies Welcome You

The Ladies of the Big Coop wish to invite you to come on down and say hello.  While you're standing there, admiring them, perhaps you could toss a little scratch grain in?  It's just there, to your left, in the big silver trash bin.  Yes, that's the one.  Go on, get a scoop.  Ah, thank you!

(Let the mayhem commence.)

Honestly, Oprah Winfrey!  Get off of Lovely.  There is enough scratch for everyone.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Blue Jade

I am rather excited about my corn crop!  Granted, it fits in a 4x4 raised bed, but still, it's a crop.  I started it several weeks ago indoors, using Rootrainers growing containers.  These are designed like little plastic "books" that nestle into a frame, and encourage healthy straight root growth.  Corn doesn't particularly like to be transplanted, but giving it a head start allows me to avoid some of the cross-contamination concerns with the GMO corn being grown all around the Farmlette.  Since corn is wind pollinated, it is hard to avoid contamination unless you trick the schedule (by starting early indoors or planting a couple weeks later) or do the whole hand pollination-bagging thing. 

The variety I am growing is a dwarf sweet corn called Blue Jade.  It's an heirloom variety from Seed Savers Exchange, and is reported to grow only to about five feet tall.  It produces steel blue ears of corn that when cooked turn bright blue.  Imagine, blue sweet corn!  I can hardly wait to try it. 

So far, it's taking well to being transplanted and has grown seemingly overnight in the warm compost of the garden bed.  With any luck, I'll be enjoying fresh homegrown blue sweet corn in July!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Gone to Pot

In addition to many little gardens around the yard, I do quite a lot of container gardening.  I'll use everything from an old beat up washtub (such as the one above, housing catnip with a bad ass guard gnomess to protect it), to terracotta pots to plastic pots to an old tin bucket.  I really like grouping containers of different sizes together, with random heights and widths.
I've learned to stick with similar colors (lots of greens and natural "terracotta") with some happy brights thrown in (predominantly purple family shades, funnily enough).  I do have a random striped container or two, but again, they are in the same color families as the rest of the pots.  Once the plants start filling in and taking off for the growing season, it looks really great.  I have high hopes for my cardoon plants (in the large terracotta pots), which should add some dramatic height to the arrangement.  This group is a mix of fragrant, lemony herbs and heirloom balcony mix petunias--which are supposed to have a beautiful, sweet fragrance.  Since they will be in bright sun near the front door, I think they'll be just the thing to greet my guests this summer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Weekend Outcome

This is what I did for much of the weekend.  Oh, there were other projects, too, but the front garden rehab took up a lot of my gardening mojo.  There's still one 4x4 raised bed that needs weeding and filling, but I need to get a new drill bit and repair one side board before I can do that successfully.  So, just ignore the weedy looking bed on the right, can you?  Thanks.

I dug the front strip, which is about six feet wide by 15 feet long, by hand, on Saturday morning.  After that was done, I dug in a lot of fresh compost.  And THEN, I worked on remulching the area around the beds.  Hopefully, the weeds will be knocked back a little and not reappear until, oh, say, July.  That would be nice...

On Sunday, I planted the front area in front of the wee little picket fence with all sorts of flowers.  There's a mix of multiflora petunia, zinnia, calendula, snapdragon, cosmos, and marigold.  For balance and a bit of drama, I planted Couve Tronchuda kale on either end.  I figure it will be come a massive green "hedge" bordering some pretty flowers.  At the back of the front strip bed, I planted alternating Giant Primrose and Evening Sun sunflowers.  Giant Primrose is a creamy, pale yellow with chocolate centers, while Evening Sun is a deep, purple-burgundy with dark eyes.  I think the contrast will be lovely, plus they will be very tall (at least 8 foot each!)

Stay tuned for more pictures in the next few days of my various projects.  Right now, I'm going to recline with a beer while I wait for dinner to be done.  Happy Weekend-end, everyone!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Gardening Therapy

There's a long history of using gardening as therapy following war.  A quick google will pop up dozens of current programs, all geared at offering veterans of military service the opportunity to learn to garden, spaces to garden in, and options for disabled veterans to garden in "less traditional" styles, such as wheelchair accessible beds or beds with seats integrated into them in case of fatigue.  If you are a gardener, and would like to help, it would be a wonderful idea to look into programs in your area that would allow you to mentor a veteran.  Gardening is surely one of the best therapies out there!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Summer's Start

It's nearly Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to the summer season.  I'll be spending it as I usually do: in the garden, digging and planting and mulching.  Don't worry, I'll take a break for a beer and something off the grill once in a while.

In honor of the fast approach of summer holidays, with days and days on end with nothing to do but tend my little Farmlette, I thought I would post the annual Summer To-Do List.  It's always fun to check back in the fall and see what go accomplished!

Summer 2014 To-Do List
1. Finish digging out all the garden beds.
2. Redo the front garden, and rescue any viable plants from the weeds.
3.  Trim and tie up all the rambling roses.
4. Finish planting the Perennial Veg Corner in the back garden.
5.  Plant the blackberries and train them on wires.
6. Start training the new apple tree to wires so it will be espalier.
7.  Clean out the Bunny Barn.
8.  Clear out the Car Hut and purge--so much stuff in there!
9. Figure out goat housing.
10. Create and plant backyard herb bed.
11. Get in at least three cords of wood before October.
12. Create space for a summer kitchen on the porch.
13. Revamp and reclaim the herb bed.
14. Figure out what strawberries need replanting.
15. Don't forget to spray apples in late June!

There's always a few things that need doing over the summer (raising meat chickens, tweaking the garden, succession planting, and the like), but in terms of major projects, I think a list of 15 items is good.  After all, I spent all last summer sitting with my leg in a cast, so  I don't want to overdo it.  I'm hoping for plenty of time to sit and relax with a good book and a glass of cool lemonade on the deck.  Now, doesn't that sound nice??

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Waterfront Views

The cornfield pond is doing very well this year, sporting all kinds of frogs and waterbirds.  There was even a goose paddling around in it the other day.  As you can see from the video, the chorus gets a little rowdy as evening sets in.  I don't mind, though.  Soon enough, the pond will dry and it will be back to row upon row of GMO corn or beans for the summer.  If ever I become a millionaire, I may just buy that field and turn it into a permanent pond again--I can just envision the reeds, cat tails, fish and herons, all frolicking across the street from my happy hens.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Moons Out of Phase?

I have no idea whether it is the weather, the changing of the season so suddenly into warm spring, or if everyone is just itching to air their grievances, but this week has thus far been filled with stories of un-neighborly actions and cantankerous coworkers.  Everywhere you turn, someone is itching for an argument...and I hate that.  Aside from a couple issues that get me running fairly hot in short order, I'm a pretty easy-going person.  But the past few days, selfish actions of the chance encounter kind are enough to challenge the patience of even the most saintly person (and I am NOT Mother Theresa!)

Yesterday was so frustrating that I turned to the interwebs for astrological interpretation.  Lo and behold, Uranus is squaring Pluto, putting it into Capricorn.  I'm not entirely sure what that means, but according to Astrologer Jenny, it can cause the following to occur:

There's an urge for freedom that breaks through barriers, even though there will be some deep, stubborn resistance...times of change don't always bring out the best in people. Some people will be tyrants, and others will make it easier for the tyrants to hold sway.

Tyrants and meanies, everywhere you turn.

Well, not really, but when you have a long day of work filled with people who all want their own way, followed by an evening of visiting with friends and hearing stories about their day also filled with negative experiences, its hard not to feel beleaguered.  It's enough to make you want to run for the hills and hide behind a tall, forbidding fence for a while.

Oh, and apparently Mercury enters retrograde in early June, so then we're all in for a crazy ride.  Whee!
There’s an urge for freedom that
breaks through barriers, even
though there will also be some
deep, stubborn resistance.  Old
fears can come up, and people
can embody them in ways that
seem quite irrational at times.

Times of change don’t bring out
the best in everyone.  Some
people will be tyrants, and
others will make it easier for
tyrants to hold sway.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Allotment Dreams

Someday, I would dearly love the little Community Garden here in the village to resemble one of these glorious alloments in Birmingham, UK.  A community of gardeners, each with their individual styles and cultural habits and glorious growing things...with a potluck or two tossed in for good measure.  How about an annual harvest festival?  Yes please!  Not only do I find programs such as this one inspiring in terms of how to gather a community around gardening, but I also pick up some great ideas for techniques to try out in my own garden.  I'm quite smitten by the idea of growing some dye plants...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Netting Cabbages

I live on a block of gardeners who spray for every ailment known to mankind.  Bugs?  Spray 'em.  Weeds?  Spray 'em.  I, however, do not spray.  And overall, I don't have any pest problems.  I strongly believe that's because I also don't weed like a maniac.  The weeds offer hiding places for predator bugs, who prey on the nasties and devour them with relish.

It's a great partnership, really.

There is one pest, however, who is a serious bane in my garden.  The white cabbage moth seems to gleefully find every single one of my cabbages and eats holes in them overnight.  Well, the moth doesn't, but the millions of babies that hatch from the eggs they lay do.  I've decided that this year, I really would prefer to have non-holey cabbages to eat, as well as intact kale and perhaps a non-wormy brocolli or two.  I had planned on rounding up some fine mesh netting and making a moth-proof cage, but instead, I found an inexpensive pre-made tunnel model that will work great.  It comes in 10-foot lengths, with a little scruncher thingie on the end to close off the openings.  Since my beds are smaller, I simply cut the tunnel in half and hey presto, moth protection is at hand.  I'm hoping it will also keep a few other pests away, but I'm suspicious that flea beetles may still be able to hop through.  I've buried the sides and ends so perhaps they will stay out, but I think I'd need to round up some remay fabric to truly dissuade them from hopping in.  Those critters mostly seem to like my beans and potato leaves, anyway, so hopefully my cabbages will be safe.

Of course, there's always cutworms...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Return Visitors

photo: wikipedia
My little wrens are back!  While working in the garden this morning, a male was singing and flitting about, trying to tempt one of the many females to come over and set up housekeeping in the cabana-esque bird house on the back fence.  That particular birdhouse seems to be the favorite, and it always the first one to be used.  Once it is gone, they decide that the other two houses are "acceptable" and generally nest in those as well. 

When I would get too close to his chosen house, he would sit on the power line or on the roof of the Bunny Barn, and chatter at me for a bit.  He was sometimes joined on the line by a grackle, who seemed to more curious about what I was planting in the back garden.  Hopefully, they both will leave the seeds in the ground and not yank up my onion sets.  I don't mind them visiting, but I do draw the line at them un-planting my newly dug beds.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Edible Pretties

photo: wikipedia
I have a weekend of gardening fun to look forward to: lots of digging, and hauling, and hardening off of tender plants that really need to get outside.  First, though, I'm off to spend the morning at a new greenhouse in town being opened by friends.  As part of their grand opening celebration, they asked me to bring along the seed library and sign up sheets for the Community Garden--it's going to be a veritable planting festival!  It sounds like the weather is going to be pleasant, so I can think of nothing nicer than visiting with friendly people, handing over some free seeds, and possibly catching a little sun.  In the afternoon, it's back to work in my home garden.

I've been thinking about adding some unusual edibles to my collection of growing goodies, and I realized:  I forgot to start edible flowers!  They certainly won't go far in filling an empty belly, but added to salads or as a garnish or simply eaten as a roving snack while working in the garden, they are such a nice addition to the other edibles in the yard.  One of my favorites is the humble violet.  I have plans to try candying them, and making a batch of Hummingbird Cupcakes with a delicate violet perched upon their iced perfection.  Of course, if I ever have masses of them, I could make violet jelly, or dry them to add to homemade teas.

photo: wikipedia
Of course, there is always my favorite edible flower, the nasturtium.  Peppery and delicious, I love these bright blossoms in a summer salad.  Plus, if I don't eat all the flowers, they set seeds that can be pickled like homegrown capers.  Since I live in a climate where growing real capers is impossible, it's nice to have a substitute...although, I've never been successful at resisting the siren call of the fresh flowers and leaving enough to set enough seeds to make pickling them worthwhile.

I'm hoping that my friends' greenhouse will have these edible delights for sale, and perhaps something else I need.  I'm thinking brocolli and basil may make my list.  I forgot to start those, too...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Starting Right

One of my weekend jobs is to plant the two new blackberry plants I purchased last Saturday.  I'm planning on training them to grow on a trellis on the back fence.  It'll be a sheltered spot, with plenty of light and a bit of protection from cold winter winds.  In a couple years, with luck, I'll be having a host of delicious berries to harvest.  I can hardly wait!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spring Greens

photo: wikipedia
I was delighted to find a new batch of stinging nettle growing in the "wild corner" under the box elder trees in front.  This little corner is home to a diverse selection of plants, including comfrey and raspberries and some thing that grows eight feet tall and has spumes of green flowers in late June.  The birds and bees love to visit this little area, and I think that's likely how the stinging nettles moved in.  Before jumping into a bit of a gardening project in the front yard yesterday, I picked a quart basket full of the tender leafy tops of this delicious spring green--wearing my gardening gloves, of course!  They may be delicious, but they pack a walloping sting.

After gardening and doing the usual chores, it was time to make one of my favorite simple spring suppers: scrambled eggs with nettle and whatever other veg I feel like chucking in.  To prepare the nettles, I first blanched them lightly and then rinsed them in a colander.  After whipping the eggs, rounding up the other veg of the day (sundried tomatoes) and deciding what cheese I felt like adding (smoked gouda), I squeezed all the water out of the blanched nettles, roughly chopped them, and tossed them into a hot cast iron skillet with melted butter.  A very quick fry later, it was time to add the other goodies and scramble my eggs.  There is nothing quite like a simple supper after doing good work in the garden, and the nettles were the perfect addition.

Later on, I'll pick more nettles and dry them to use in homemade herbal teas.  Once cooked or dried, they lose their sting.  They keep their wonderful green flavor, though.  If you have the chance to try nettles, you really should.  It's a free, healthy spring green that grows a-plenty!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Onward to Stage Two

I took advantage of a decent (meaning, not pouring buckets of rain) afternoon yesterday and made some steady progress on the back garden project.  I finished making the 4x4 raised beds, and after placing them in their final positions, hauled back what felt like half-a-ton of cedar chip mulch.  I kept the mulch about four inches or so deep, and while I know the weeds will eventually grow into it or grow through it, it smells nice and for the moment, appears impervious. 

Given the measurements of the back garden area, I was able to put three raised beds in a row on either side of a wide center row.  I plan to put a couple galvanized tub containers in the center, the kind that are oval and are used as water troughs for horses.  My plan is to plant the containers with something, possibly corn or squash, but something that will do okay in a large-ish constainer.  So far, I'm really pleased with how this project is coming along.  Next up, Stage Three: Compost Hauling and filling of the raised beds. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Let Your Flag Fly

While the mini-picket fence is adorable, it unfortunately is a tad too short.  The dogs have been treating it like a hurdle and tromping all through my new meadow.  Bad dogs!

I didn't want to replace the fence, so I had to find a way to add a visual barrier, one that would look intimidating to large, gentle-yet-naughty dogs who pretend deafness when being yelled out to get out of the garden, NOW dang it!  As I was tidying up the guest/crafty/library room, I rediscovered the contents of several pink rubbermaid tubs.  Hiding in one of them was all sorts of small amounts of lively cotton fabrics and jute twine--Aha!  My garden bunting project!  I was wondering where that had gone off to...

Using the rotary cutter with a homemade triangular template was good therapy after a day spent mucking around in the garden, and they sewed up quickly on my vintage sewing machine. A quick threading with jute twine later, and they were ready to hang above my picket fence.
Functional, festive, and (so far) excellent dog deterrents.  My meadow may be saved from marauding canines after all!  Now, to keep the cats using it as a handy litter box...

Monday, May 12, 2014

Works in Progress

Yesterday was a day to get one project done, and make a head start on another.  I put together my latest "improved" compost area: two pallets held in place with t-posts, with a third in front fastened with baling twine.  A repurposed homemade gate across the smaller opening, and there you go: a compost area which may keep compost materials in and curious dogs out.  Only time will tell on that last part...

As for the project that got started, I worked on the back garden rehabilitation project:
After raking and burning off the dry debris from last summer (it felt wonderful to set fire to those giant lambs quarter skeletons!), I rolled out the thick weed blocker paper that will hopefully give the weeds a bit of a smother.  I have no doubt that eventually, they will win the battle, but I think the heavy paper will work to keep them at bay for a little while.  After rolling out the paper, I started to put together the series of six 4 x 4 foot raised beds....and ran out of steam.  Ah well.  They'll be waiting for me when next I get out there, which may be Tuesday evening if the rain holds off.  Once the beds are in place, I'll spread cedar chip mulch over everything which should again help keep weeds at bay for a little while, and then its time to start hauling the compost currently living in the front driveway through to the back yard.  Now that's a project and a half!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Big Sale

Early Saturday morning, I headed out in the spring sunshine to pick up my friend and drive over the state line to St. Paul, Minnesota.  We were on our way to an absolutely enormous plant sale, put on by the Friends School (a Quaker school in St. Paul) as a major annual fundraiser.  Not only does it help a school, but it also helps us gardeners load up on glorious plants.

It was an absolute mad house, too.  The picture above was taken outdoors, of the line of people waiting to get into the sale.  There were several hundred people waiting, with more arriving every minute.  It was a good thing they decided to hold the sale at the coliseum on the State Fairgrounds--not only could it hold all the plants, but it could handle all the people, too.  To get into the sale is free, you just need to get an armband labeled with the number of your group.  Then, the organizers call each group in about 20 minutes apart and then it is a race to get your plants before they are gone.

I went into the sale with a list, and did fairly well finding my items.  A lot of things were sold out (the sale started on Friday morning), but I did get the majority of the herbs and native plants I had been searching for.  Everything was grouped and labeled, but the sheer volume of plants and people was a little overwhelming.
Overwhelming in a good way, of course.  I mean, when you're in the Midwest in a crowd people are still pretty friendly and kind, with lots of smiles and compliments and "excuse me"s flung about with abandon.  For all the numbers of people buying in quantity, the checkout process was a breeze:  first they tallied your order, then you moved to the cashiers to pay.  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.  I was awfully glad that I had a cart of my own to haul everything around and back out the doors. 

So what was my haul, you ask?  Well, my biggest purchase was a pair of Black Satin thornless blackberries.  Oh, I do love blackberries!  I have black raspberries right now, which are delicious if wickedly thorned, but they aren't the same as blackberries.  I'm planning to grow them along the fence, I think.  I also found a marshmallow plant, some yarrow, pink hyssop, peppermint, bee sage, french sorrel and bloody dock, and a large quantity of snapdragons.  Some of the snapdragons will be planted here and there in my gardens, and some will be for the pollinator garden managed by the 4Hers.  All in all, it was a good day--with lots of great plants coming home with me!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dreaming of Warmth

Well, it will eventually warm up here--and then it'll be too hot--but for now, it's coolish and dampish.  I've been knitting while wearing many layers and watching gardening videos like this one.  There is just something up a classic Italian garden, replete with Meditteranean lushness, that makes a chilly evening in early May bearable.  Of course, served up with a side of wine and some olives, it becomes a fairly decadent evening in no matter the season.

Today, I'm heading into the Twin Cities to visit the Friends' School Plant Sale, held every year at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, MN.  I've never been, but my bestie Nicole assures me that it is amazing and huge and filled to bursting with amazing plants.  I have printed my PDF wish list, and hope to find everything on it.  I hear a stop for good pho is on the schedule, and I'm thinking I may sneak a stop at Trader Joe's on the way back across the state line.  I'll post pictures tomorrow of the decadence that is the Plant Sale.  I can hardly wait!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Of Monsoons and Weeds

We seem to be locked into a pattern of heavy wet days with cold winds.  Last night, we had a series of impressively thunderous storms blow through, fairly continuous after 5 PM or so.  The dogs were not happy about this.  The lake reappeared in the corn field across the street.  Even the rabbits got a little soggy.

Today dawned misty and dark and glum, but it didn't deter a team of hardy volunteers from coming over to the Community Garden and lending a hand on a couple projects.  Not only did they make a head start on the endless task of weeding, but they also helped to assemble the new composter:
Plus, they made a start on the hugelkulture bed project, which will eventually be finished off by the 4H club and planted with bee & butterfly friendly plants.
Right now, it looks a lot like a raise bed frame filled with branches.  (That's because it is.)  Soon, though, the branches will be hidden under a layer of composted manure.  You'll never know they are there, except they'll be helping the bed to retain moisture throughout the long summer months.

Even though it was an unpleasant morning, the kids had pretty cheerful attitudes and worked like demons.  Thanks a million, minions!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Little Garden Management

Now that the snow has melted and the ground is workable, it's time to finalize the garden plot assignments.  As the coordinator of the community garden, I have a little liberty in which plots I assign first: folks who have gardened there for the past few seasons get first dibs at their spots (and usually keep them), then comes the community groups who have volunteered to take on a garden project for the summer.  After that, it's first come, first serve--with an emphasis on placing people in gardens of their preferred size as close to the water spigot as possible.

This year, it was all about subdividing.  Three original large plots (20 x 30 feet) remain on the south side of the garden, while the north was divided into half-sized, or medium, plots (15 x 20 feet).  The pay-it-forward raised bed is assigned to the local 4H club, to house their pollinator garden, with the roughly 8 x 12 foot spaces on either side remaining as "small" garden plots.  As of writing this, there's only one large space, two medium and two small plots remaining unclaimed.  With any luck, those too will be snapped up by a lucky gardener or two before the end of the month.  And if the wet weather isn't too fierce, Friday should reveal a host of volunteer minions from the local high school descending on the garden.  They'll be put to work digging, or tilling if we round up a rototiller or two, and possibly spreading some compost (if we get a donation of that, as well.)

I'd better pick up some freezer pops if I'm going to put them to work like that.  I claim dibs on a red one!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chicks on Parade

Well, it finally happened.  The weather warmed up, and the chicks have moved out.  Huzzah!  They did have a heat lamp on at night, to help them get used to the colder overnight temperatures, but it blew out on the first night.  Since then, they've been roughing it in their repurposed tub and doing well. Not that the house has been particularly warm for the past couple of weeks, and they haven't been sleeping on or under the heat plate for a week or so now, but still, it's different when you're living outdoors.

I made a little cabana for them out of an old rubbermaid tub, with a hole cut in the lid to allow the radiant heat from the lower wattage heat lamp into the belly of the tub.  Lucky for me, I kept the cut out material and was able to block the hole back up after the lamp died.  Most of the chicklets seem to have figured out how to gather in their new house, and they have enough feathers to bunch together and keep themselves warm even if they did decide to not go inside of the tub for the night.  As you can see from the short video, they are pretty content with life out in the big world, lucky chicks.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Envision a Meadow...

It looks a little brown right now, but with any luck, it'll soon be greening up with emerging little wildflowers.  This little spot of the yard has been growing nothing for years, aside from clumps of dying grass, the occasional weed, and a lot of bare, dry dirt showing.  Apparently, a couple minor construction projects and a herd of ravening dog-beasts combined with my lack of interest in maintaining a lawn on sandy soil did in any good roots.  Rather than grow another round of dust bowl weed adventures this season, I'm going for a wildflower meadow to draw in the native pollinators.  After scraping up the worst of the remaining weedy clumps, I put down a six inch deep layer of compost.  Sure, some weeds are going to grow back through that, but the heavy sowing of native wildflowers, all of which are hardy and sun-loving, should give them some competition.

It's a little hard to see, but against the west wall of the Bunny Barn there's a series of bamboo canes.  At the base of each cane, I planted three scarlet runner bean seeds.  These are seeds that were raised right here on the Farmlette, so they should shoot up and grow strongly.  By the time summer heats up, there should be a natural screen of bean vines to shade the rabbits during the long hot afternoons.  The hummingbirds absolutely love the bright red flowers, too, so combined with the irresistible lure of a profusion of wildflower blooms I will hopefully be over-run with hummingbirds, native bees, and butterflies galore.

I plan to make some bunting to swag over the mini-picket fencing, just to make it even more precious. Because, really, butterflies and hummingbirds just cry out for fluttering flags in a summer breeze, right?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday Fun..Before Work Begins

Hooray, it's the Weekend!!

Today, I'll be heading out to a hopefully not too wet experience shopping at some garage sales.  This is the weekend where I'm usually out with the girls on the 100 Mile Garage Sale around Lake Pepin, but this year, I'll be hitting maybe half of it with a couple of newbie friends who have never been .  It wasn't in the cards to do our big Girls Weekend this year, but I'm hoping to maybe find a yogurt maker or two and then head back home.  There's plenty of garden work to be done:  setting up the new compost bin area, working on setting up the back garden, peas and potatoes to be planted, hoop house management, you name it, it's on the list to be done.

Hopefully, the weather is cooperating where you are and you'll be able to get outside and tackle a spring project or two.  If you're looking for some light reading when you do take a break, you can read a fun little write-up here about my recent Major Award from Storey Publications.  Happy Weekending, everyone!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Gardening Meets Reality TV?

I'm not a huge fan of reality TV or those "competitive" TV programs, but this one does intrigue me a little.  Competitors from across the UK were chosen to prove who could meet the challenges of managing an allotment, started from scratch.  Each week, teams are voted off the Allotment (kind of like being voted off the Island, I guess).  Those that make it win a prize and fame and all kinds of garden glory...

What do you think?  I'm thinking this would never make it here in the US--well, maybe if it was trend-erized or made flashy with celebrity appearances. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy May Day!

If you're lucky, the sun is shining and you're out frolicking with the fairies who live at the bottom of the garden.  Here, I'll be making some May Day baskets with the kids after school, since it's too wet for us to go out in our garden.  In either case, have a happy-skippy-fairy-filled kind of start to your May!