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Homegrown Goodness for the Felines

October 5th, 2017

I always grow catnip in the garden. Little sprigs are picked throughout the growing season and brought in for the cats. This time of year I harvest armloads of it to dry for the stuffing of cat toys, which I make and give to friends & family. I found the fantastic Cotton & Steel fabric to use for the cat toys I make. I simply cut the cats out, back with scrap fabric, and sew a piece of cotton string in for the tail. So far all the recipients have fallen in love with their toys. As you can see, it’s hard to keep our cats away from the toys I make for others.

Catnip is also valuable in the garden because it’s a great insect deterrent. If the mosquitoes are bothering me while I’m working, I harvest a handful of the catmint and rub it on my exposed skin. This works splendidly for me (the cats love it too). I once went to a friend’s home and her cats were rubbing on me and licking my legs. We got a good laugh when I remembered that I’d rubbed myself down with catnip that morning because the mosquitoes were thick in the garden. Perhaps I’ll make a few to sell someday, until then, all of our cats and our friend’s cat will be happily enjoying the homegrown catnip.

What fun gifts are making? Are you able to use any garden items in them? 

Johnny’s Seeds Research Farm

October 4th, 2017

I’m lucky in that I live about 30 minutes away from the Johnny’s Selected Seeds Research Farm. Whenever I order from Johnny’s, I pick up my order that the store and stop by the research farm on the way home. Last week when I stopped the flower gardens were STUNNING. There’s not much I can say about it, photos speak so much better than I can:

Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three

October 3rd, 2017

I finally decided to take the plunge and get a soil test. Since my gardens grow well, and I don’t have any issues, I’ve never really gotten around to getting a soil test. As I purchased a few soil amendments last week, I decided to get a few tests done of different garden areas.

I decided to test three different areas. Test plot #1 is the half of the main garden that I have been improving for the past 5 years. Test plot #2 is the half of the main garden that has been fallow. It’s received its first mulch of compost this year, the past four years it has been fallow under a batch of wood chips. Even with these minimal efforts, the soil is much better on that side than it was 5 years ago. The half that I have actively worked on improving is much better than this half. The third test plot is the potager. This garden is actually not native soil, it was a truck load of topsoil the previous owners had laid down on a hillside where they wanted to add a garden.

I’m getting comprehensive tests for all three areas. I haven’t decided yet if I want to pay the extra $ to get the particle size testing for each plot. Overall, it’s very inexpensive, each comprehensive test is only $22 (particle size testing is an additional $20 per test plot). Stay tuned, I’ll make sure to share the results.

Have you had your garden soil tested?

Wham, Bam, Hedge

October 2nd, 2017

Last week, we went to our local hardware store to grab a few items for a project. As usual, I wanted to “just look through the plants to see what they had”. All the boxwood was 50% off, which means the small ones were only $4.50 each. Even though I take box cuttings myself, they take a long time and a decent amount of labor to get to the place that these inexpensive plants are. We went home and I thought about where I’ve been planning box hedges and figured up how many I would need. Then I deliberated some more. I’m not a big spender, in general I will save money rather than spend it, do without rather than have. I have been this way since I was a small child. Mr Chiots finally convinced me to just buy the plants and have the hedge planted and growing out.

It will cut 2-3 years off of the time needed for the garden to reach completion. So we loaded up our car with loads of box…. This hedge consists of ‘Green Mountain’ box, one that will grow about 3-5 feet high and 2-3 feet wide. It will be perfect for this hedge, which I want to be between 3-4 feet high and about 2 feet wide. The following day, we scraped up the sod in the area in front of the main garden. It will be layered heavy with compost, lines strung, and the plants lined up. I’m thinking we will space them 18″-24″ apart.

This process gave me an instant 5 feet of extra space at the front of the garden. Behind the new hedge there will be a 5 foot bed that will house tall blooming annuals each year. In front of the hedge there will be space for low growing annuals like allysum. Overall, it’s going to be a lot of work to get this all planted, but it will be wonderful in a few years time.

What big projects do you have going on in the garden?

Quote of the Day: Tamar Adler

October 1st, 2017

“Then there is the breed of vegetable that strides at its own pace, regardless of yours. It has a brief season and is probably laborious, needing to be shelled or shucked or peeled, then leaving you a tiny pile of its edible self.

But it is invariably this vegetable that tastes so resonantly of its moment in the year that the surrounding months echo with it. There are festivals organized around this sort: in Spain there’s one for the sweet, leggy onion called calcots. Everyone runs out and picks them, builds big fires, roasts bushels and bushels, makes romesco sauce, gets drunk, eating as many as they can. In Italy, if a vegetable’s festival is not on the calendar, it’s tacitly observed: there will be picnics when the first wild asparagus arrive. This sort of vegetable is impractical if you’re trying to look ahead, but is very good at making you stop and look around.”

Tamar Adler in An Everlasting Meal

As the hot weather gardening season winds down, I’m thinking about what lies ahead as far as vegetables and fruit. The pumpkins lie heavy in the garden still, they will produce a lot of delicious winter meals. The butternut squash are aplenty, two vines produced enough for an army thanks to the chicken manure mulch. The fall lettuces are coming in, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts are all flavors of this cooler season. Eating seasonally allows us to enjoy each thing at the height of its season and celebrate what it brings to the table, both flavorwise and healthwise.

What vegetables and fruit are you looking forward to next season?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.