I am glad that I am not a novice gardener this year. A significant number of my spring crops failed with all the wet we had in June. If I didn't know this for the simple luck of the draw (a bad one), I would be so discouraged that I would probably give up on gardening entirely. Nor would I know that replanting provides even odds for a fall harvest of some crops. As it is, I've been patrolling the garden with something close to anxiety, watching my second round of starts like a hawk. The gorgeous sunflowers are some consolation. Normally at this time I would be struggling to keep up with the kale, and putting as much of it away for the winter months as I could. It feels very odd to have as much time on my hands as I do right now. Not in a good way, either. Though it is allowing me to gather plenty of Japanese beetles by hand, much to the delight of the hens.
Though we treated with milky spore early this year, we are still seeing some damage from these supremely annoying, invasive pests. Nothing native eats them; there are no checks or balances with Japanese beetles. The girls however will happily eat as many as I can bring them. I tried putting a hormonal lure and modified beetle trap right in their pen, but I think the lure is old and ineffective. It was given to me for free by a relative. I find the beetles most often on my potatoes and comfrey, and on my husband's raspberries and grape vines. I've seen a few on other garden plants and there's a shrubby sort of plant in our weed patch that attracts them very strongly. I have to dump the beetles onto a light colored frisbee so that the girls can see the little pests, which otherwise are too well camouflaged on the earth. They love this special feeding time. I'm getting about a dozen beetles each time I gather, which is now at least three times per day. It's worth it since it lets me cut back on the purchased feed for the chickens. And oh, how satisfying to see my girls eat my pests!
Planted: Finished transplanting my last ditch efforts with the Tuscan kale and Savoy cabbage for this year. I'm on pins and needles about these fall crops since my spring brassicas failed entirely due to the June rains. What we'll do without a bumper crop of kale, I just don't want to contemplate. Trying again with okra too. Put in a few more snow peas and daikon radish seeds.
Oh! I was also inspired and deeply impressed with Julie's ginger harvest. It's technically too cold to grow ginger here, but I do love it. So I decided to try growing some in a five-gallon bucket, which I'll need to bring indoors for the winter. The experiment began just a few days ago. We'll see how it goes.
Harvested: The remaining 1/3 of my garlic crop, a few excellent cylindra beets, lots of herbs, Slobolt lettuce, the beginnings of the summer squash and squash blossoms, eggs as usual from the girls.
Preserved: Air dried a few zucchini just as an experiment. Also made a simple syrup with anise hyssop for mixed drinks (alcoholic and otherwise).
Waste not: Used a bunch of newspaper for lasagna mulching in a new area of the yard. Feeding the beetles to the girls instead of putting up with crop damage or resorting to pesticides.
Preparation/Storage: Priced some shelves for food storage in the basement, but the price is really more than I want to pay. Still looking.
Community: Not much. I've committed to helping can raspberry jam with an acquaintance, and promised some garden seeds to her too. I hope she follows through and lets me know when she's ready to can.
Eat the food: Used some of last year's roasted tomato sauce and summer squash from the garden for a squash tart. It was a hit. I'm going to try it again this week with the addition of pesto. Also made a chunky salad of beets, grilled zucchini, roasted corn kernels, avocado, garlic scape pesto and mayonnaise. It all turned the lurid color of beets, but it was really tasty and went very well in wraps with Slobolt lettuce from the garden. So four of the ingredients (half) were homegrown.
I live on a 2/3 acre homestead in a residential neighborhood. A major goal is to demonstrate how much food a non-expert can produce in my particular climate and hardiness zone, with the soils native to my immediate area. We have gardens of annual and perennial plants, keep laying hens and honey bees, and regularly bite off more than we can chew. Another major goal is to pay off our mortgage as fast as possible. Here I blog about frugality, self-reliance, gardening, cooking and baking, food preservation, practical skills, half-baked experiments, and preparing to thrive in a lower-energy future.