July 2013

Monthly Archive

Squash Bugs

Posted by on 24 Jul 2013 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

In my last post I showed you my Cinderella pumpkin plant, and told you I had a problem with squash bugs. Here is the full story.

I went out to the garden, as is my wont, one morning a couple of weeks ago, after my walk. I went around, checking each of the beds and plants, making sure everything was getting watered, was weeded, etc. I didn’t even think to check anything for bugs, because, due to my extreme inexperience, I had never had the opportunity to deal with them.

I decided the pumpkin needed to be watered (it isn’t on the drip system) and I pulled over the hose to do so. I bent down and started watering it, and noticed a couple of very ugly bugs running away from the water.

A squash bug, plotting death to all cucurbits
courtesy Dave Govoni, via Flickr

 

I sprayed them to encourage them to leave, and then I thought to myself, “What if they laid eggs?” I knew that the eggs would probably be on the underside of the leaves. So I looked under a few of them and found two leaves with eggs, and a couple more squash bugs. This was a problem.

courtesy Robyn Anderson, via Flickr

Squash bug eggs
courtesy Robyn Anderson, via Flickr

 

I sat there in the garden, and thought about it for a minute. Then I went to the garage and retrieved a bucket, and filled it with water. I took the bucket over to the plant and pulled the two leaves off the plant and dropped them in the water, then looked around for any mature bugs I could find. I found three, and dropped each of them into the water. One of the bugs persistently swam to the side and began climbing up. After a couple of attempts to knock him back in, I put some oil in the bucket, thinking that would keep him down. It did not. He climbed up the side again. I decided at this point that he deserved a clean death, and squished him. I let the bucket sit in the hot sun all day to kill the eggs, then I dumped it in the compost pile.

The next morning I went out again, this time with my daughter, and we found three more mature bugs, and a couple more leaves with eggs. On one of the leaves, the eggs were hatching.

I had a better idea to destroy the bugs this time. I pulled off the infested leaves again, and picked up the bugs with a stick and fed them to my chickens.

Chickens, destroyers of squash bugs

My chickens, destroyers of squash bugs

Chickens love squash bugs.

I have been checking the pumpkin (and all my other plants too) for squash bugs every day, and have not seen any since the second day.

The only things I would do differently if I found them again would be to place the bugs and infested leaves into a bucket or other receptacle and carry them to the chickens, rather than trying to carry them perched on a stick, which was difficult.

If you have squash bugs and no chickens, you should place them in a bucket of soapy water (not oily, as I have learned) and squish the eggs.

Update: It would appear that the squash bugs did some damage to the pumpkin that was not immediately evident. This last weekend, after 2+ weeks bug free and green, with blossoms and everything, the pumpkin plant shrivelled and yellowed. The only thing that can be said of it currently is that it isn’t dead . . . yet.

 

July Garden

Posted by on 24 Jul 2013 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Here is my July Garden, in all it’s (lack of ) glory:

july garden 2

I know it isn’t the best light, but in this photo you can see the entirety of my ‘orchard’ and garden. My orchard right now consists of three spindly apple trees.

july garden 3 july garden 6

Here you can see my first 4×8 box from both the north and south. The tomatoes on the west side of my box seem to be doing much better growth wise. However, they have yet to produce a single fruit. The green feathers growing to the south of the tomatoes are the first years growth of my asparagus.

july garden 8

Here is my second 4×8 bed. More tomatoes to the north (also growing better to the west, also NO FRUIT!). The bottom row is basil, which is growing splendidly. The row above that is pepper plants, however, I think I started them too late, because they aren’t producing either.

july garden 7

My third 4×8 bed. The garlic to the north, which I have already harvested. Potatoes in the bottom corner. I just transplanted all of the volunteer potatoes that popped up in other beds into this one, and they are doing great. The rest of the space was carrots, but, again, I planted too late, and they did nothing. I got maybe four carrots out of the 100 or so I planted.

July Garden 1 july garden 5

This is my raspberry bed. It is a whopping 20’x10′. Where are the raspberries, you say? Well, I bought bare root raspberries this spring and was unaware that, like bare root trees, you must soak them prior to planting. So they died. Not wanting to waste a perfectly good bed, I planted winter squash (the two large plants that you see) and melons. The melons have grown more since this picture.  I also have four blackberry plants that I bought at Home Depot on a whim planted on the west side of the bed. They aren’t producing yet, but neither are they dead. We’ll check back on them next spring.

You also may have noticed that the bed is only half filled with dirt, the other half being filled with weeds. I only had enough raspberry plants this spring to plant half the bed, so we only filled half the bed. We will fill the other half this fall.

july garden 12

Here are my herb pots. There is more basil, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. There used to be mint in one of the pots. I killed it. Yes, I know that you are not supposed to be able to kill mint. What can I say, I’m gifted.

july garden 10

I have two potato towers to the west of the hypothetical berry patch. This is an experiment to see if potato towers produce as well as potatoes in the beds. We’ll see this fall.

july garden 9

This is a cinderella pumpkin that my mother gave me. It is planted north of my potato towers This pumpkin at one point was being attacked by squash bugs. I’ll tell you how I took care of them in my next post.

july garden 4

Here is my last 4×8 bed. It is to the south of the potato towers. This bed was intended for strawberries, however, they also died. These deaths I can’t entirely explain, but I think that they probably weren’t watered enough. Their death was a blessing in disguise though. I refigured the eventual proportions of my garden, and I am going to turn the bed to run north/south and lengthen it to 20 ft, the same as my berry patch. The whole bed will be used for strawberries and I can rotate it along the bed.

Right now I have zucchini and crookneck squashes on the south side, doing beautifully, full of blossoms, and going to produce any day now. The north side has a melon and a cucumber, also full of blossoms. I am going to set up a trellis on the north side of the bed to run the melon and cucumber up (the melon is a small variety), because they are attempting to take over each others space.

That is the entirety of my garden right now. I have planned something much, much grander though. I cover my garden plans in a future post, probably closer to fall.

The Fang

Posted by on 19 Jul 2013 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

My baby cut a tooth yesterday. It wasn’t there two days ago. It wasn’t there when he woke  up. But after lunch, there was a teeny tiny knife poking my finger  when I rubbed his gums. I am feeling mournful, as it kind of means he isn’t a little baby anymore (though at 17 lbs, he hasn’t been little for a while). I don’t know how many more I’ll have, but I think we are more than half done. And now I am more than half done with baby’s babyhood.

Curriculum Round up

Posted by on 18 Jul 2013 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

This year I have a 2nd grader (Miss Bug) and a kindergartener (The Chicken Whisperer). Now, the Chicken Whisperer will actually be going to a charter school for kindergarten this year, and the plan at this point will be to reevaluate at the end of the school year, and (probably) homeschool him thereafter. Miss Bug is enrolled in an online charter and gets access to technology courses through them, but all of her curriculum is decided and administered by me.

So here are our curriculum choices for the 2013-2014 school year.

 

Everyone

Morning Meeting

History Odyssey Middle Ages

Harmony Fine Arts Middle Ages

REAL Science Odyssey

 

Kindergarten

Karate

Explode the Code 1

Lots of reading

 

1st Grade

Robotics

Gymnastics

Piano lessons

Portuguese – Rosetta Stone Online

Language Arts –

  • Language Lessons for Elementary Child V1
  • 1 read aloud per week
  • 1 personal read per week w/ report
  • 1 poem per week/copywork or write own poem
  • Spelling Power
  • Handwriting Without Tears
  • Keyboarding

Singapore Math 2A & 2B

 

Now I want to say that Miss Bug may look like she has a huge course load, especially for a 2nd grader, but all of her Language Arts should take about half an hour per day, and math should only take about 20-30 minutes as well. Each ‘Language Lesson’ is only about 5 minutes, Spelling Power is 10, and HWT will only be done on days when she has no other copywork. She reads everything in sight already (including the national news over my shoulder . . . sigh), so having her read a book per week will be cake to her, and she can do her report orally or written, as she chooses. I chose to have her do a report because I noticed this year a slight tendency to rush through her reading and not understand everything, so I am trying to gently encourage better reading comprehension. The Keyboarding will be 5 minutes per day before she can play on the computer after school.

So you can better see how I plan to organize our days, here is our tentative weekly schedule:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Language Arts

Math

Portuguese

History

Language Arts

Math

Portuguese

Fine Arts

Language Arts

Math

Science Coop

Piano Lessons

Language Arts

Math

Portuguese

History

Language Arts

Math

Portuguese

Fine Arts

 

 

I don’t yet have Robotics, PE, or Portuguese placed because I am not familiar with the materials (they haven’t been sent to me yet) and, in the case of PE classes, I haven’t scheduled them yet.

A sample daily outline will look something like this:

 

Daily Routine Outline

  • Breakfast
  • Morning Chores
  • Opening Exercises
  • Family Learning (History, etc.)
  • Lunch
  • Chicken Whisperer to School
  • Miss Bug Learning (Math, LA, etc)
  • Pick up Chicken Whisperer
  • Afternoon Chores
  • Free time
  • Dinner
  • Evening chores
  • Bed

 

So those are my tentative ideas for our 2013-2014 school year.

Garlic Harvest

Posted by on 16 Jul 2013 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

So I had my first major harvest yesterday. I have harvested some herbs up to this point, but yesterday I pulled my garlic. I wanted to harvest last week, and I had pulled off the drip line a couple of weeks ago in preparation.

But on the day last week that I was going to pull them, it rained. And it rained on and off for the rest of the week.Now I am by no means an expert at gardening anything, but I know that you want your garlic to be pretty dry when you pull it. And I try not to complain about any moisture we receive, especially when we are in a drought, so I was only hoping for a couple of dry days in a row, so the ground wouldn’t be soggy when I pulled the garlic. So when Sunday was dry and Monday was dry, I thought that I would be able to pull it Monday night. And Monday night at dinner, when I saw storm clouds moving in, I ran out to the garden with a basket and my kids, and we pulled the garlic.

Now before I tell you how much garlic we harvested, I have to tell you about last year’s harvest. Last year was my first real year having a garden (the garden that I dug into the backyard of the rental home we had 6 years ago was done so badly that I can’t really count it as anything but a learning experience). I wanted to plant garlic. But my mother had never planted garlic in her gardens when I was living at home, so I had no experience at all with this plant. I only knew vegetables that you plant in the spring and harvest in the fall. So I didn’t learn that garlic needed to be planted in late fall until January of 2012.

I was advised at that time that since it was a mild winter I might be able to get a crop if I planted the garlic immediately. So I bought some seed garlic in January. Then I didn’t plant it . . . until March! We didn’t have our garden beds ready until then, so the garlic didn’t get planted until then.

Even then I might have had a few small heads to harvest. The garlic shot up through my mulch with beautiful green leaves. But, again, I was operating under the paradigm of plant in the spring, harvest in the fall. So I didn’t harvest until September, well after all the foliage had died completely back. I was only able to find one, small, rotting head of garlic.

This year, I harvested forty heads.

garlic

Some were small, most were average, and about a half dozen were nice, large heads, which are the ones that I will be saving for seed.  The variety that did the best is, I think, Broadleaf Czech. I bought it from Seed Savers International. If you want to buy from them this year, I would place your orders early, as they have limited supplies this year.

You might be wondering about how I have the garlic set up for curing. You are supposed to cure garlic in a dark, well ventilated room for a couple of weeks. My house is quite light and airy, and the basement is unfinished, so there is actually quite a bit of light down there as well. So I took an old ripped sheet and spread it on a table downstairs, laid the garlic bulbs on it, and then pulled the other half of the sheet over the top. It is still well ventilated, but now it is out of the light. In a couple of weeks I will brush off the remainder of the dirt,  and experiment with braiding it. I will separate out my seed garlic bulbs, of course, and store them separately (I will probably buy a few more seed garlic too.) This fall I am planning on planting around 75 garlic, maybe more, as only about 2/3rds of my planting came up this year.

Morning Walks

Posted by on 15 Jul 2013 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I used to think that to exercise I needed to go to a gym, or follow a workout video at home. I at least needed some weights or something. And if I was just going to go around my neighborhood, I had to run. I couldn’t possibly get enough exercise by walking. I had to train for a marathon or 5k. I thought this as recently as one month ago. As you might believe, this had a negative effect on my desire to exercise at all.

Then something switched in my head. One morning I woke up early, and decided to go on a walk. Nothing huge, just around the block. I enjoyed myself so much, that I did it the next day. And the day after that I rode my bike. I have been outside in the morning on a walk or bike ride three or four mornings a week for the last three weeks. And I love it.

I love being up before my family. I love being out in the cool morning air before it heats up like an oven. I love seeing the other people in my neighborhood who go running, biking and walking. After my walk, I love heading over to my garden and looking after things. I pull the few weeds in the beds, and get a second workout pulling the weeds in between the beds, and in the hypothetical pasture, and in the lawn. My garden is better looked after, and I am taking care of myself in a way that I never thought I would like to before.

Occasionally I don’t have the privilege of being up first, but one of my kids beats me to it. Then they get to come with me on my walk. I make it a short one on those days, but they think it is super special to be with Mommy. I think it’s pretty special too.

Compost Pile of Shame

Posted by on 11 Jul 2013 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

So here I am, trying to start a homesteading blog. I haven’t done too spectacularly anyways. And then I remember. My compost pile. It should disqualify me from ever being considered a serious homesteader.

You see, I have read dozens of books on the subject, but what have done? Just thrown all my compostables in one, big, ugly heap.

compost whole scaled

Here, let’s take a closer look:

compost heap scaled

Egg cartons, and paper bags, and every bit of vegetable waste that has come through our house in the last year. Yes, it has been a year since I turned my compost heap.

But I am turning over a new leaf. I am going to take my pallets and rebuild a new heap box, and then layer my compost as described in “Four-Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman. I tried to find an image, but couldn’t, so I’ll be taking pictures while I do it, and post them after.

And just for complete honesty, here is a picture of my back corner of my land, where I plan to have my eventually pasture:

weeds scaled

Weeds as far as the eye can see. At least I can use them in my compost heap if I pull them before they go to seed.