Spring and gardening. It finally feels real.

What a bizarre week we had weather wise last week.  We had a lot of rain and Thursday it started snowing at noon and snowed all day and into the night. It wasn’t sticking too much during the day, but we ended up with over an inch of snow by Friday morning – the car was packed with heavy snow, but thankfully it was all melted by Saturday!

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The last three years have been such chaos that it’s kind of hard to explain.  We leased the acreage for about eight months and had just closed on the sale a couple weeks before Ian was injured in Iraq.  We knew we were going to get the farm, but we didn’t unpack a lot of things, and just ran to the garage if we were missing something and retrieved it from a tub or box.  Well, three years later things have settled down to a point where I’m sick of the utter chaos and feel I have to get through the entire house and clear the clutter and get things simplified and into a comfortable state.  Not for any other reason other than I know it will make me feel better living in a less cluttered home and Steve will too!  We have a beautiful home and I’m giving myself a month to have things in order.  This will be close to the beginning of our 31st year married. I don’t know how we gathered so much stuff the last 30 years, but a few things will be leaving us soon.

Thankfully I had a strange energy burst at midnight Friday (Saturday). Steve went to bed and I spent over two hours going through things in our ‘west’ room. I have a table that was just covered with books, papers, and other things.   I got that all gone through then I dusted and swept the floor.  So glad I did because shortly after that I knocked a glass of water off a table and ended up mopping the floor too 🙂 I moved some things around, rearranged the plants and got the little table all cleaned off and shined up the glass top too!!  I almost left a note on the bathroom mirror to tell Steve not to have a heart attack or scream when he saw the room when he got up, especially ‘my’ table! When I got up Saturday I said “Guess what I did until 2:30 this morning??”  He said “looks like you did a little cleaning!”  Last night (Saturday) the same thing happened, but I had to be quieter. I cleaned out my clothes in the bedroom closet.  I got all the things that I know I’ll not wear again in a pile, my winter things boxed up, and like at the little store I work in, I kind of arranged my things in color/style order!! I also read in an organizing book that this is an excellent way to help things stay tidy – I’m not very tidy these days…  I stayed up until 2 a.m. doing that, and tonight (Sunday) I plan to finish boxing up some clothes and go through two tubs that I honestly cannot remember what I stuffed in them. (I did not get that done, energy burst busted and I haven’t done much this week!)

In keeping with my cleaning frenzy, I had Steve take all of our jackets and winter coats upstairs to be stored Sunday.  We don’t have much closet space so it helps having them out of the family room!  Once all the rest of my things are boxed up I’ll get them upstairs too.  I am feeling good about getting things in better order. I have a long ways to go, but I will get there.

This past weekend was beautiful.  The weather broke and Saturday was nice but Sunday was splendid! We did a lot of work outdoors.  We ran to Waverly Saturday and picked up a few groceries and chicken feed then we just putzed around and watched some TV.  Sunday I slept in a bit and when I got up I made breakfast then we got to work.  I cleaned up the corner of the deck where all my gardening stuff is and got it to the shed where it belongs and moved the green house – we had brought it in Thursday due to the cold and snow.  I washed off the glass top tables on the deck and transplanted a pot of parsley and basil into my raised box that I grow herbs in during the warm months.  Saturday Steve took an old window and made another ‘shelter’ for my boxes, sort of like a cold frame, but just a nice cover to keep rain out.  The first picture is of the snow on Friday… ugh.

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With 13 chickens I asked Steve if he could extend their outside pen area.  We don’t let them just wander all over the place due to the mess and because the dogs like to chase them, so we increased the area by over half again the size. We had a roll of old fence and it looks great! The chickens are growing and hopefully they’ll all be laying soon.

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Steve tilled our small garden by the garage and I will plant my tomatoes and peppers soon.  I have covered them with milk cartons for years and plan to do so even though it is almost a week in to May because I do NOT trust the weather.  Saturday Steve trimmed all our little bushes around the house and I wacked all the dead stuff off my perennial herbs.  It is starting to look like spring.  The beautiful black dirt in the garden made me want to dig in, but I really need to take my time and write things down so I don’t lose track of what I’m planting.  There was no possibility of having the big garden tilled this week, so praying it can be done within the next week and a half or so.

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Ivy is back to her crazy self and spends a lot of time chasing flies on the deck. She is in her own little world when this is going on and you cannot get her attention. I’m pretty sure when we were having lunch outside Sunday she jumped up and caught a fly.  She is wild.  Clara is so different. She is calm and like a hound, she just lays in the sun and enjoys being outdoors.

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Saturday we got 10 trees from the Arbor Day Foundation that are selected to attract wild birds.  It will be a couple years before they can be permanently placed in the ground, but I’m really excited. I also got five Rose of Sharon ‘ baby bushes’ (more like sticks) and we’ll get them potted so they can grow a bit too. I started two Giant Sequoias a little over a year ago, one is over two feet tall now and I’m not sure when I’ll have the courage to stick it in the ground.  I will start putting it out on the deck this summer and in to the fall.  Probably plant it next year.  Where to plant is the question!

For my birthday in 2010 Em gave me a book to write for her.  It had blank pages with a question on every other page about my life and life experiences.  It took me forever to finish, but I finally got it done for her last fall.  She gave me a similar book for Mother’s Day last year, Susan Branch’s “To My Daughter – With Love from my Kitchen”.  It’s a cookbook and I am working on it and plan to give it to her when she visits in June •♥• We hope to have a BBQ or some sort of gathering while she is here.

Yesterday (Monday) kind of slipped away from me, for dinner I simmered some vegetables and chicken  in yellow curry paste, coconut milk and chicken stock.  I made saffron rice so when Steve got home it was ready to go.  I didn’t get my tomatoes planted, so I drew out my plan and Steve and I headed out after dinner and planted! I found some Japanese Maple trees at a little store for $10 a piece so I picked up two… If you haven’t figured it out, I love trees and plants!  These are babies so I will plant one in a whiskey barrel that is fairly protected and figure out where to put the other until they can go in the ground.

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The 15 tomato plants in the small garden are Sweet Cherry 100’s, Yellow Pear, Black Krim, Lemon Boy, Mr. Stripey (which was one of my favorites from last year), red Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple, and German Queen. I have Cherry Chocolate, some yellow cherry, and Tigerella still growing up in the greenhouse, so we’ll see if we put more in the ground.  I had hoped by now we’d own our own tiller for behind the tractor, but maybe one of these years!  We’re going to take our big tiller and dig up the ‘holes’ for the 10 pepper plants I have and then we’ll put straw/hay down to kill off the grass.  Maybe next spring we’ll till that up for more garden space.

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Well, it’s Tuesday afternoon.  I spent 2.5 hours mowing on the tractor and then I tried to take a nap. My mind was racing too much so I got up and planted some zinnias in a pair of little Wellie’s (my guess is I put too much dirt in them …)  then I did some target shooting. I didn’t do the best, but my last two minutes with the bow were the best.  If I hit a target dead on and just keep shooting with a gun I nail it every time.  Picking up an arrow takes time, but I tried to do the same thing and finally hit eight out of 10. Not a very tight group, but I’ll take it 🙂  I cook the same way.  Better off not using a recipe, just instinct!

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I don’t feel like I’ve been much in the way of help like I’d hoped to be in this ‘garden’ blog!!  We’ve had such a slow spring and I’m just amazed that we just now got our tomatoes in last night – I’ve had them in as early as late March in years past – kept them covered and had super early tomatoes 😉 Today a few of the tomatoes are pretty wilted, and we’re expecting rain, the next few days. the plants are surrounded by milk cartons or old pots but the tops will  need to be covered and protected from the rain

It’s good to be back in the garden!

Happy gardening to all my friends!

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Spring is here for a few days.

We had a lovely weekend with temperatures in the 60’s and today the ‘70’s. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice also, but the rest of the week the temperatures are supposed to plummet and we have a possibility of snow.  We’ve had a few nights of seeing the most beautiful moon ever.  Beautiful deep orange in color and totally visible thanks to clear skies!

No gardening this weekend.  The onions, carrots and radishes I planted in the garden boxes a couple of weeks ago are popping up, especially the onions. You can see a few radishes popping up. I love radishes sliced ever so thin with a bit of scallions, green peppers and tomatoes with cottage cheese 🙂  Someone please chime in on all my odd food likes … let me know if you like or dislike 😉 I will not take offense to any opinion!

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I think I will have our garden tilled up next week.  I am going to hire the same guy who did it last year as he is reasonable and I want him to break more ground – he has a nice tractor tiller!  I contemplated only planting corn and tomatoes.  I really haven’t bought any seed aside from carrots, so we shall see. My tomato seedlings are doing  so-so.  Like I said before, I’ll probably end up buying a few plants because I want tomatoes as early as possible.

I am very anxious to get the gardens in.  I am seriously wondering what to plant. Our thought earlier this year was to put all the plants that vine on the east side of the barn and use the big garden for more corn, beans, carrots and peas.  We’d put cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkins and squashes east of the barn – that way I won’t have to mow over there and the big garden can be a bigger area to plant vegetables I can can/freeze! I am very anxious to get the gardens in.

Our new chickens are all doing well.  The Old English and our new rooster are always out of the fenced area wandering around.  The other day the dogs got a hold of one of the little black Cochins and had her through the fence by her tail feathers. I managed to get them away from her and she slipped out of the fence and hid behind some pallets we have for hours!  We got the fence a little better secured, but those five little ones are very small and can slip through just about anywhere.  Ivy chased the rooster around the pasture and although it was somewhat amusing, we have to break the dogs of going after the chickens. They are hunters, but nonetheless, I’d be upset if one of them killed a chicken. The new chicks are finally roosting up high at night, the two OE’s and the rooster have taken up together, interesting creatures!

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Saturday Steve and I got the deck cleaned up a bit and Steve got a lot of garbage out of the west side of the shed/barn and garage – things from the remodel three years ago that we’re finally getting to.  It is now adorning our property by the road waiting for a special pick up by our rural garbage guys.  The move out here almost four years ago wasn’t very organized, mainly because we have SO MUCH STUFF.  We have rid ourselves of a LOT of things, but I didn’t organize very well and our lives got chaotic just after we closed on the  farm in May of 2010. I am at a point now where I just want to simplify and get rid of things we don’t use or need.  I hope that over the next couple of months we can finally get through things in the garage and the house that aren’t needed.  A garage sale is in our future!

The weather allowed us to get a couple of rounds of grilling in this weekend, chicken, burgers and hotdogs.

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I made some cucumbers, onions and celery with a pungent sauce of vinegar, sugar and oil.

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We also started a project of wine making.  Steve and I started making wine and beer back in 2002 and quit in 2006.  I got to thinking after a friend on FB posted pictures of her wines that maybe we should give it a shot again. This time we’ve started three one gallon batches of wines.  Using no chemicals we will see how they turn out.  We have an apple, apple cranberry and mead (honey wine) started.  They are bubbling away on the counter and we’ll see how it progresses.

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We spent a lot of time shooting our BB guns this weekend – I didn’t get my bow out, but maybe in between all I need to do tomorrow I will shoot some. Steve took today off, which was nice.  We didn’t do a lot, but it was nice to have a long weekend. We were happy to see the farmers in the fields around us too.

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Steve and I love living out here. The freedom to walk around and ‘chicken watch’, plant our gardens, enjoy our meals on the deck when the weather permits, and watch the beautiful sun sets and moon rises on the horizons!

I have to give Steve credit for the photos of the tractor, the burgers and the beautiful sunset and thunderhead that is now the space in our sky producing pink lightning.

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Almost bedtime here.  Happy gardening to those of you who are already gardening outdoors!! I’ll be digging my hands in the dirt as soon as I possibly can!

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It’s spring in Iowa but it still feels like winter.

Greetings! I’m Sue, I am 53 years old and I live in the country with my husband Steve. Steve and I have two wonderful children, Ian and Em. Em lives on the east coast and Ian and his wife, Nicole, live on the west coast. We have two dogs, Clara and Ivy, 12 hens and one rooster.  We also have other assorted critters running around; weasels, raccoons, mice, skunk, etc. .

I love to garden and I used to write some, so I hope by writing again I can learn more about gardening and utilizing the resources we have out here.  I’ll use this page in lieu of Facebook.  FB took up too much of my time and I decided I don’t need to be on it as much as I had been.  I need to figure out how this layout works and I’ll start adding pictures soon.  My guess is I’ll be back on Facebook at some point – not holding my breath, after almost two days away from it I’m doing OK 😉

My goal is to become more self sufficient.  We have a little piece of land, a beautiful home, two barns and the potential to have more animals and larger gardens as time goes on.  I dehydrate foods, can foods, and freeze some too.  I also do a lot of cooking, so along with gardening, this blog may include some recipes and food ideas (especially over the winter months).  Another goal is to do a day of cooking each week or so and freeze things into one portion containers for Steve and myself so as not to waste food.  I’ll let you know how that goes!

Gardening really is a passion for me and this year I thought I’d try my tomatoes from seed.  In March I did start some tomatoes – we’re still experiencing ‘winter’ here and my seedlings aren’t doing well as they’ve not had a chance to get outdoors to toughen up – I’ll probably have to buy tomato plants.  I had my garden tilled last year on April 10th … I have no clue when we’ll be tilling this year. It was too bleak of a day to put a picture of what things look like outdoors right now so I decided on a picture of canned tomatoes for my cover photo.  We’ve been enjoying our canned tomatoes this winter in chili, spaghetti and whatever else I can throw them into.

Today (April 22, 2013) was a gloomy day to start, it warmed up to 62* but I didn’t get out to enjoy the afternoon because I was out shopping late morning and once home I hooked up my new stove.  I accomplished that despite the fact one of the wires didn’t want to fit into place. I have never been in our basement and those stairs are terrifying for me (there is no railing, it’s an open staircase and set up like nothing I’ve ever seen before … Did I mention I’ve never been in our basement?? Almost four years have passed, so this was quite the feat for me!). I’m really afraid of heights so I sort of scaled the west wall, turned around half way down and made it to the basement to flip the power back on for the stove.  I managed to test a couple of things on the stove and in the oven before Steve got home from work and will be cooking and baking more tomorrow.

As I get ready to settle in for the night the temperature has dropped to 42* and it has been raining and is very windy, as usual.  It is supposed to drop to about 34* overnight with a high tomorrow of 40*.  It is supposed to snow lightly tomorrow morning and after that it looks as though we may see spring here in Iowa by the weekend. I’m pretty sure we’re going to wake up one of these days and it is going to hit 90* and stay that way through September.

Join me as I garden, cook and write. I want to learn and hopefully help others learn too.

April 22, 2013, 11:58 p.m.

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