It’s Been A Minute…

Whee! Playing outside finally!

It isn’t that there hasn’t been much going on…but most of what the last few months has entailed was routine. We had Christmas Break, started the Spring Semester, had a bunch of snow days (like, one per week, almost literally…), and now I’m on Spring Break…but more on that later…

Probably the biggest thing that’s happened was Meg’s 10th birthday. It’s crazy to think that it’s been 10 years since she joined the family! We had a small gathering for some of her friends after school last Friday, and keeping 4 fourth graders entertained for 5 hours is certainly a challenge…

Speaking of Spring Break, I’ve gotten a few short-ish bike rides in, some running, some prep work for the rest of the semester, and a few other odds and ends done. Mostly, I’ve just been chillin’ around the house. The weather has been up and down (because Missouri), but we’ve had a few days in the past couple of weeks where we’ve hit the mid-60s or low-70s, so we’ve had a taste of Spring and are ready for it. Brooke even got her annual “burning of the garden” done! Of course, there’s a chance of snow tomorrow…because…Missouri….

The big news has been developing over the past few weeks. As you, dear reader, undoubtedly know by now, the world has been rocked by the novel coronavirus. Incidentally, Calvin, Brooke and I were struck with influenza a few weeks ago, so we’ve already had a run-in with sickness this year (yes, we had our flu shots…), but this coronavirus is a different situation.

So different that Missouri Valley has decided, along with many other colleges, to shut down in-person teaching for the foreseeable future. We’re on Spring Break, so students are already scattered all over the place. The administration took the logical step of delaying their return for an extra week, and gave them the option to choose to return if they want later in March. Buildings will be open, the dining hall will still function, dorms will be available….but we won’t hold any face-to-face classes.

For me, this isn’t going to be a tough transition. I already teach a few classes online, so I’ll just have to push a few buttons to move things over, in a few circumstances. For one of my classes, I’ll have to record some video lectures and think about how to assign a few “virtual laboratory” activities.

For other faculty, though, it’s going to be hard. Classes like chemistry, for example, aren’t easily switched to an online format. There are virtual solutions available, but not those that can be easily mobilized in a short time-frame with limited financial resources. I’ll probably have to help some of my colleagues come up with some solutions, but for some classes, there really isn’t a good option available.

So yeah, we chatted with the kids last night to explain that “things are going to look different” for a bit. I’ll go to work, but not on a regular schedule. They’re still going to school, so that routine hasn’t been affected….yet…. But we did have to tell them that they’ll have to be flexible and patient with what they’re used to getting from the grocery store. Supply chains have already been disrupted, so it’s at least possible that Meg won’t get her cheese crackers, or Calvin won’t get the exact frozen pizza he likes… It’s just hard to say whether groceries will be affected, or whether things will go “business as usual.” It just seems to be best to warn them so their frustration is at least slightly abated when things don’t happen the way they want… Right now, I don’t think they’re scared or anything, nor should they be, but I do want them to be prepared.

It’s gonna be weird! I’m not looking forward to exclusively online instruction, mostly because I actually like the interaction with students. Doing everything by email just isn’t the same… It’s better than spreading a virus to people more susceptible than us, though!

Garden Update: 09.09.19

The garden is definitely on the downswing. We’re still harvesting some stuff, but as you can see above, much of the greenery has died off.

The green beans are way dead. We ended up with something like 30 pints of green beans in the end, with quite a few being eaten fresh or given away. I think Brooke had four rows planted and, as usual, they performed admirably.

The soup beans are still going strong, though Brooke has picked quite a few pods thus far. Shockingly, with the heat and limited rain we’ve had recently, there are still some flowers on the plants, so maybe we’ll end up with another small wave.

The pepper plants are still bad, but we have had a few small hot peppers showing up. They’re just now turning red, so we’ll pull those relatively soon.

The cucumbers have also mostly given up the ghost, but much like the soup beans, we’ve got 3 or 4 new ones slowly growing, so maybe we’ll end up with a few more? Probably not.

The sweet potatoes are looking good, though we won’t pull those until November. Brooke’s flowers that she planted have done surprisingly well, too!

The real story is the black beans, which like the green beans before them, have also been solid. Meg and Calvin did some good work shelling soup, black, and rattlesnake beans this past weekend and we’ve definitely got a few meals out of them.

The tomatoes are doing their thing, of course. They’re mostly small, but we’re getting quite a few. Only a few “slicers” so far this year, sadly, so BLTs haven’t been common. Brooke hasn’t canned any yet, preferring to amass a metric ton in the freezer first before she focuses on them (also, waiting for the heat to die down before using the gas stove for hours on end…).

So yeah, the jury’s still out on the tomato crop for the year. We’ve got a lot: just dunno how much, exactly.

I mentioned the rattlesnake beans, pictured in the back, and again, they’re doing they’re thing…and slowing down. The strawberries have done a great job establishing themselves! We’re probably going to expand the patch out next year a bit, so I’ve started making more concrete bricks to spread out toward where the blackberries and raspberries.

Speaking of which, the raspberries are producing again, though the blackberries still haven’t done a ton. We’ll probably pull those at the end of the season, but haven’t decided on the raspberries yet.

Our milkweed is blooming and has had a few visitors! It’s over 5 ft tall, which is quite a bit bigger than we were expecting. The other milkweed plant was encroached on by the mint, so it remains to be seen how well it’ll come back next year. It kinda bent off toward the south and grew, er, sideways…so yeah…

The pears are still looking great! But they’re also still rather solid, so we don’t think they’re ripe yet… But, they’re also bruising a bit on some of the fruit, where they’re too soft on one side, yet hard on the other. Long story short, no idea if they’re ready yet, but hopefully we’ll cut into one soon…

And last but not least, Brooke tore out the bushes on the east side of the house! They were ugly and had to go. Brooke was surprised at how easy it was to remove the roots. We’ve got our landscaping project for next summer lined up, I guess!

That’s it for now! Probably one more update for 2019 coming, once we know how much tomato sauce we’re ending up with.

Garden Update: 08.15.19

Well, we’re in the throes of late-Summer, and as such, the rain has been sparse and parts of the garden are dying off. We’ve been harvesting a decent amount of stuff still and most of the plants look good, but the green beans are finally dying off.

The black beans, on the other hand, are coming on strong. Brooke only planted the one row (middle, above), and we haven’t picked any pods yet, but they’re getting full and looking pretty good. The flowers she planted in the background are also looking okay, but they seem to want more water than the other plants seem to need.

On the left, we’ve got volunteer cherry tomatoes that are still producing quite a bit. The cucumber plants Brooke planted are also still producing, giving us at least 10 good-sized cucumbers thus far with some smaller ones still coming on.

The aforementioned green beans are slowing down drastically. That doesn’t mean we haven’t picked a metric ton of them by now, but at least we can stop checking on a nearly daily basis for more to pick.

Could we pick more? Yes. But we’d need to start watering them, and that’s just a bridge too far. To date, Brooke’s canned at least 20 pints of green beans and we’ve given plenty away, and we’ve got 2 gallon-sized bags full in the fridge still yet to be canned. I’ll post a final number once that’s all done, but suffice to say we have our usual green bean crop in 2019, if not more than usual.

As the picture illustrates, we’ve also got tomatoes coming on at a somewhat regular rate now, though we aren’t getting many good “slicer” tomatoes. Some are relatively good in size, but still a bit smaller in diameter than your typical burger bun. Still, they taste good!

There are also two dried bean varieties in the ice cream buckets pictured above: on the right, you’ll find our usual soup beans (that Brooke is starting to pick, but we have a long way to go on those….), and on the left, you’ll find Brooke’s rattlesnake “pole” beans.

It’s really been the last few weeks where the flowers and beans have started taking off, as well as the vines starting to “vine on themselves” at the very top of the tetrapod (not a tripod anymore…we had a Christmas tree between last summer and this summer…). The vines were a bit slow to start this year, but July allowed them to move along quite nicely.

We’ve got a solid number of bean pods on there still, so we’re not sure how many we’ll end up. If it’s like last year, it won’t be a ton, but hey, if you have the space, may as well plant something there…

Other than that, we have a few other incidental things going on. Strawberries are done for the year, but they continue to want to expand, to some degree outside of the bounds we’ve created for them. When I weed the edges, I have to keep training them to keep their “shoots” in their patch. Brooke and I have talked about expanding that entire plot as a “berry plot,” encompassing the raspberries and other things we may want to put there. More on that in future posts, I’m sure. Still, we’re pretty impressed with how the strawberries have been growing, so hopefully that means we’ll get a solid number next June!

The pears look good, too! We’ve probably got 10 pears of various sizes on that tree. Brooke says it’s some kind of “Asian pear” variety, as it doesn’t have the same shape we’re used to getting in our neck of the woods. They’re still pretty hard, so we haven’t tried any yet. Hopefully the squirrels don’t find them, as those jerks ate the apples we had on the tree already…grrrrrr….

I’m not going to bother posting a picture of the beehive as it doesn’t look any different from last time. Brooke got into the hive last week and saw the super mostly filled with honey, so we should be good to go for some harvesting by Labor Day. She noted the frames weren’t capped yet, so the bees were still working on it…

Last, but not least, we didn’t grow this corn, but my co-worker said that her friend had ears of sweet corn that were just going to go to waste, so we could come over and grab some. We ended up with 70-ish ears of corn, the vast majority of which Brooke cut off the cob to be frozen. The flavor was pretty good for the corn, but some of the kernels were a bit smaller (like they weren’t fully grown) and some of them just didn’t feel all that full when you ate them (like, some flavor, but not really full flavor). Still, free corn is free corn, so we’ll be eating on that for the winter. It’s nice to have neighbors who like to share!

Anyway, that’s it for now! Probably only one or two more garden updates for 2019 to go!

Garden Update: 07.26.19

I did…so much stuff today

I kinda buzzed through my lawn care work last week before heading off to Smoky Mountain NP (more on that next time), so I had some catch-up (ketchup?) work to do today. Thankfully, the weather has been pretty mild, so things could have been work for the amount of stuff I had to do…

Firstly, I finally dug up the carrots. We ended up with a overfilled ice cream bucket full of them, and many of them were a pretty substantial size. Others, however, were ridiculously small for how long they were in the ground. Right now, I’m not sure how “worth it” carrots are for next year: we got quite a few of them, but they were planted months ago and took up space that could have gone to other things. We’ll just have to see how they taste, I suppose…

The green beans are about done, too. Brooke has canned around 20 pints of beans this year, which is similar to our usual haul. We’ve also given away some and eaten them fresh, so as usual, the green beans have done wonders for us.

But yeah, they’re not filling as well as they did a few weeks ago, so we may pick a few more here and there, but we’ll probably let them finish up.

The peppers are still growing very, very slowly, so I’m not optimistic on their chances. We’ll keep working on it, but I don’t think I’ve seen any flowers on them yet. Ah well…

I also weeded some of the second plot. Brooke planted some flowers that needed some TLC, so I worked through them first. The black beans she planted are also looking great, but aren’t flowering yet, either. The cucumbers came on pretty quick and we picked two of those the other day. Calvin’s excited!

After that, I tied up the tomatoes. They’ve started producing finally, but we’ve only had a few ripen for us.

We’ve got some volunteer grape tomatoes growing in another plot that we’ve been going after, though we’re still waiting for them to come on strong. We’ve only had, maybe, 10 or 15 of those tomatoes mature.

Other than the ‘maters, everything else is still doing it’s thing. The pole beans are growing quite a bit, but no beans yet. The blackberries produced a few two weeks ago, but we only got a handful (still more than usual…). The strawberries are probably done for the year, but they’ve been putting their shoots out and they’re continuing to proliferate.

The peaches are the real story of the summer, though. A few weeks ago, they started to turn, so Brooke coated them with kaolin clay and I kept hitting them with neem oil, both of which should be relatively bee-safe. Then, we picked a few and tried them out and they were pretty good! Again, this is the first time we’d actually gotten to try some, because the Japanese beetles consistently get them, so we were pretty happy to actually get some.

While I was gone at Smoky Mountains, Brooke picked a bundle of them! Again, the flavor was pretty good, but she found them to be a little “mealy” and difficult to extract from the pit (“clingstone” peaches?), but overall, pretty good.

Well, over the past few days, the beetles have gained a foothold… I’ll probably continue to apply neem oil for a little longer, but we’re thinking the peaches are probably done for now.

Still, we got our peaches, so I’m satisfied!

That’s it for now. The next update will probably involve a metric ton of tomatoes, if all goes well!

Garden Update: 6.19.19

Lookin’ good, right?

While we were on vacation, the soup beans and green beans took off, so those are moving along well. The green beans have some flowers on them, so in a few short weeks, we’ll be out there picking. We haven’t tried digging up any carrots yet (left), but they should be ready soon, if not already.

The pepper plants are a mixed bag, with three of them looking okay and three of them looking…puny… Seems like it kinda always goes like that, but we’ll see. Off to the far left, you can see the pumpkin plant Calvin wanted Brooke to put in and it’s doing just fine. Probably going to take over the whole thing…and we’ll get 0 pumpkins from it…figures…

The lettuce plants have produced very well, but after pulling off leaves left and right, they aren’t looking great anymore. We’ll probably get another week or two out of it, but we don’t expect to get a ton more. In the background, Brooke planted sweet potatoes in that lattice box in hopes that we can keep adding dirt to it, filling the box (ish), and getting the sweet potatoes to grow up in the box rather than in the soil underneath. That way, when we lift said box in a few months, the potatoes should just fall right out. Considering there are holes all over that thing to leak dirt, I’m not sure how this is going to work, but oh well…we’ve got potatoes from last year, so we can afford to experiment.

Brooke also planted a round of spinach and some black beans next to them, but those haven’t popped up yet. Off to the far right, that’s where the cucumber is supposed to be, but that’s been coming on pretty slowly. We’ll see if we eventually cross the proverbial finish line on those…

In other news, the pole beans have all sprouted, the raspberries and blackberries are doing well (some blackberries are growing, but aren’t ready yet), and the strawberries have actually been producing! Only a few berries a day, but considering that we didn’t expect to get anything, we’re pleased. They’re also projecting out “runners,” so they’re spreading in the space we’ve provided for them.

The tomatoes are rockin’ it, as always. The plant sizes are pretty variable (also “as always”…), but we’ve already got some tomatoes coming on with the biggest plants. We tied them up tonight to keep ’em moving upward moreso than outward…

Brooke did some trimming of the oregano, lemon balm, and mint plants, so that’s all under control. Also, the milkweed we planted back in may is doing surprisingly well, but I’m having to keep it weeded to keep them happy. No flowers yet on them.

The bees also appear to be doing well in that spot. Brooke needs to get into the hive and check on them, as it’s been since before vacation when she did it. We’re assuming they’re ready for a super on the top, by this point, so maybe we’ll have some honey by mid-July?

The most recent project has been trying to fight off the evil Japanese beetles that we know are coming. Brooke found one in the neighbor’s yard, but that’s the only one we’ve seen. Thus, we’re trying to be more proactive about battling them, and we’re trying kaolin clay. Our understanding is that it should serve as a bee-safe pest control that should still allow the fruit to keep growing on the tree. We picked up a bag and tried painting it onto the fruit, but that was relatively inefficient. Seen above, Brooke picked up a spray bottle and she tried diluting it enough to work in that setting. Much faster, though in that concentration, it seems to work better on the peaches than the apples due to their fuzzy coating.

Speaking of which, the peaches are looking good! Getting bigger and smelling great. The apples are a bit smaller, but the seem to be progressing nicely, too.

Pears! We have pears! This is the first year we’ve had pears! Yay yay yay yay yay!!!

I think that’s about it. Everything’s moving along well! It’s been cool and rainy all week, so I tried seeding some grass where our yucca plants used to be. That’s working alright so far, too, but I bet I’ll need to water more after this week.

Garden Update: 5.19.19

This’ll be a quick update, as I just posted something a few days ago, but we needed to pull out all the spinach so I wanted to record how much we got. Seems like we have multiple Aldi-sized bags-worth of them, so it was worth the effort! Brooke thinks this is substantially more than we had last year, and I agree. Thus far, we’ve clocked 4 gallon-size bags full of it. The lettuce is coming on pretty well, too, but we haven’t harvested any of it yet.

We’ll freeze most of the spinach to be used for smoothies. We’re hoping some of the spinach continues to grow for a few more weeks so we can have some fresh stuff for salads, but the majority of it will be saved for our smoothie habit.

Other than that, we’ve got a few more things moving along, including some little strawberry-lets, so hopefully we’ll get a few of those in the near future, too! We weren’t anticipating that we’d get all that many strawberries this season yet, but we’ve got at least 5 moving along. Fingers crossed!

We’ve also got some buds on the raspberries moving along, so Calvin’s excited to start going out every day and stealing them before I can get one…

Brooke also put the next hive body on the bees today. She saw plenty of bees in there and some new brood, so the nuc appears to be doing what it’s supposed to be doing.

And last but not least, Brooke spent the week working on macrame so she could hang up some plants on the front porch. She’s very proud of them. 🙂

That’s enough! Looking forward to fresh strawberries! …so long as the squirrels lay off of them…

Garden Update: 05.13.19

We finally got some garden time in this weekend, between having an available day and also not having constant rain… It was kinda a “make or break” day for us to get things in, so we went by Orscheln to get some tomatoes, pepper plants, and some flowers for the front porch. This was after we visited the Birds & Bees festival in Arrow Rock to see some…er….birds and bees….but also to pick up some native plants and herbs. More on that later…

Regardless, the radishes and spinach are doing quite well! We’ve had about 3 rounds of radishes in the quantity pictured below. The spinach pulled is our first official harvest, but as you can see in the image above, there’s plenty more where that came from. Also, the open part of the plot pictured above is currently housing volunteer tomatoes, but is destined for cucumbers once we get around to planting them.

Otherwise, we also planted about 8 pepper plants (mostly green, one yellow), and a pumpkin plant that Calvin wanted (I said “no,” but was overruled…). Next to that set of peppers, we will be planting green beans, probably mid-week when the ground dries out a bit more.

The carrots are doing dramatically better than last year (which is to say, we have more than one carrot plant). They’re pretty small and took forever to pop up, but so long as it continues along this vein, we should end up with a decent number of carrots…er…eventually…

Again, the tomatoes end up doing well for us usually, but this year, we didn’t end up with freebies from the Botany class on campus. We grabbed mostly “beef-type” slicers and some Italian roma varieties. We didn’t plant many (any?) cherry tomato varieties because we always get volunteers, and lo and behold, we totally do.

We spent a decent amount of time cleaning out the herb garden, as there were tons of weeds and waaaaaaay too much mint growing. We think we left the flowers that have been growing from year to year, and also bought a few milkweed plants from the Birds & Bees festival to help the butterflies and bees. The kids also scored a free shining blue star that should do well in that spot in the coming years. Regardless, the mint, lemon balm, and oregano (that I forgot was even in there…) are all doing crazy well. I’ll probably need to pare those back a bit as the summer continues…

Lastly, the lettuce is finally getting to the point where we may be able to pick some of it. Brooke moved the chives to the raised bed, and also planted some sage and basil. Brooke dug in the raised bed a bit and we can’t say we are particularly impressed with the dirt we laid down awhile back, as it’s become kinda compacted and “layered” in the bed. It sure seems like the dirt in the garden is far blacker and healthier than what the raised bed has, so we’ll have to see what ends up happening in the next few years.

And last, but certainly not least, we’ve got some peaches and apples growing in our trees, which is in keeping with what we got last year (minus the Japanese beetles…), so that part isn’t all that surprising. What is exciting is that we’ve got about 6 pears growing finally! Our first crop of them! Woo hoo!!

That’ll do for now!

Garden Update: 03.17.19

Relative to 2018, we’re a bit behind. We’ve had so much rain, freezing rain, ice, snow, blizzards, and glaciers this year that it’s been too wet to till up the garden, let alone burn the brush off of it from last year. In the meantime, we’ve had it in mind for awhile to add a raised garden bed between our new patio and the rest of the garden, so we took advantage of one of the first nice days we’ve had in 2019 to get started on it.

We went with cinder blocks to get it started, along with PVC pipes to not only lock it down to the ground, but also serve as places to stick some re-bar hoops in to let us cover the plot in winter. Brooke also saw a post online where we could just put down cardboard to kill off the grass, while letting it biodegrade slowly. We also had some leaves and brush around so…we threw that in there… Why not…

Brooke had me pick up quite a few bags of dirt to throw in this plot. We put 5 bags of topsoil on the bottom layer, directly on top of the cardboard.

This was followed with a layer of peat moss. That stuff was a bit more “solid” than we expected, likely because it was so compacted in those giant bags. Believe you me, that 3 cu. ft. bag took up more space in the car than the 5 bags of top soil did…

Lastly, we put four bags of compost down, followed by a final layer of 5 more bags of top soil.

Finished product! The plan is to put lettuce and some herbs in it as soon as we can. We’ll put the re-bar in the PVC pipes this Fall and then find some thick plastic to cover everything, hopefully to keep things growing into January 2020. As I’m sure you know, more pictures to come as 2019 continues!

Garden Update: Late-September

So, being honest for a moment: I put these pictures in here earlier in October and forgot about it.  I’m a little late, but the garden hasn’t changed all that much in the last week, so oh well: it is what it is.

Aaaaannnyway, we’ve mostly shut down the garden for the year.  At this point, I’m still going out a few times a week to grab cherry tomatoes for Meg’s and my lunches during the week.  There are some full-size tomatoes still coming on, and we’ve still got peppers out there, but we’re only going out there when we feel like it, or when we need something for some reason.

Brooke picked the popcorn.  We got some this year, but nowhere near what we got two years ago.  She noticed a squirrel attempting to carry an ear up one of our maple trees a few weeks ago, so we know various pests also went after them.  Still, we got something, so it could have been worse.  The bean plot has some of last year’s straw bales on it to try and limit the growth of weeds, but other than that, we’re leaving that entire plot alone now.

The tomato and pepper plots are still moving, to a limited degree.  Somehow, earlier last week, we ended up with 80+ F temperatures before it started getting cooler.  The low tonight is supposed to be 38 F, so we’ve had a big swing in the last week!  We’ve also had some rain, so I should probably mow…er…sometime…

Earlier in October, Brooke picked as much as she could handle and ended up with quite a few tomatoes.  She’s pretty sure she’s canned over 20 pints thus far, though she put these tomatoes pictured here in the freezer until she’s ready to process them.  She expects that she can hit 30 pints by the time it’s all said and done, but the “official” count remains to be seen.

Our pepper crop ended up being pretty solid this year!  We didn’t get many traditional bell peppers, but the peppers we ended up with were still relatively mild and tasty.  

She ended up canning them after roasting them outside on the grill.  The roasting process was straightforward outside and provided the “real estate” to do all of them at one time.  Brooke brought them in and cut them all up and put them in small jars in the fridge.  I’m not entirely sure what she’s going to do with them, but I suspect they’d be good in a chili or on a pizza.  We’ll see!

Lastly, aside from the popcorn in the middle, here’s the soup bean and “pole bean” haul from this year.  Not a ton on any of their counts, but still: more than we had before.  We will definitely go with pole beans next year, but we haven’t decided whether to go with a more “prolific” variety, or whether we need to just add more arms to the teepee and get more plants going.  With regards to the soup beans, we knew going in that we weren’t planting as many as last year (we’ve still got some), but it just feels wrong to not plant them, so here we are.  We got something.  That’s what matters.

This post probably closes out this year’s garden posts for awhile!  I may do another wrap-up later after the sweet potatoes come up, but that doesn’t usually happen until we get closer to the freezing point (which is tonight…incidentally…who knows…silly Missouri weather…).  We had a good run in 2018!

Update (10/16/18): Rather than starting a whole new post about this, I figured I’d add a few pictures from yesterday.  Our first frost hit last night (a low of 29 F), so we picked the rest of the tomatoes and peppers that were out.

The tomatoes weren’t in the best of shape, but I got almost a “car wash bucket” out of them.  I’ll be sad to see the cherry tomatoes go this season, as I’ve been eating them in my lunch twice a week, but I suppose all good things must come to an end…

The peppers were in better shape, overall.  Lots of big ones and little ones out there.  Brooke’s going to freeze these after she slices and dices them and we’ll use them in chili, on pizzas, etc. I think our pepper haul was shockingly good this year, though I guess I can’t say for certain whether we got more than last year or not (I suspect so…).

Sometime in the next few days, Brooke will dig up the sweet potatoes.  That’ll close out the garden for 2018 for good!

Garden Update: Late-July

It continues…

The garden has slowed down to a degree, mostly because rain has been very scarce.  I’ve watered as best I can, of course, but there’s only so much a sprinkler can do.  The temperatures this week have been great: the A/C has been off for a week and will remain that way into next week!

The green beans are “done,” it seems.  You can see in the picture above, but the middle of the crop just died off all the sudden and we aren’t sure why.  Regardless, Brooke canned 28 pints of beans, plus another 2 pints that didn’t seal correctly, and the 3+ quart-size bags we’ve given away to others.  Brooke has also canned cucumbers as lime pickles and ended up with 7 pints of those, but the cucumbers are still coming so she’ll end up with more.

Tomatoes and soup beans

The tomatoes have taken off and have tons of green ones on, but we have relatively few that have actually ripened.  And by “relatively few,” I mean “two.”  We’ve stolen a few from the Gault’s next door, as it always seems like theirs ripen a month before ours do.  I’m not sure what black magic their casting, but whatever it is, it works.

Mama Tomato and Papa Tomato.

The soup beans are also vining out substantially, though the ones furthest from the trees are doing better. I’m sure it’s the excess sunlight they get over there, but still, worth noting.

Berries, pole beans, sweet potatoes.

The berries aren’t doing much right now.  The Japanese Beetle War of 2018 spilled over to them for a little while, but I’m not sure they actually did much damage.  We did lose all the peaches except for four that I picked early.  After the beetles were done last week (seriously, it took a month this year…), there were still 3 or 4 peaches out there, but when we looked this week, we couldn’t find them.  We suspect the neighbors stole them…grrrrrr…

The pole beans have some nice looking pods on them, so we think we’ll be able to pick some soon!

Peppers!

The peppers keep truckin’ along.  We’ve got Margaret Peppers coming off the plants, as they’re starting to turn red.  They’re bell-type peppers, but they’ve got an ever-so-slight “kick” to them that Meg doesn’t seem to mind.  The other plants are mostly hot peppers of the Coyame variety (I think…they at least look a lot like those from last year…)

An extended walkway!

Last but not least, we added to the walkway over the past few weeks!  Meg and Calvin helped a little bit, but weren’t as interested this year in concrete work.  I think I ended up getting something like 20 or 25 bags (80 lb) of concrete mix to finish this up, though I’ve got a few extra I didn’t use.  The intent is to put a few patio chairs out there and move the chiminea onto the platform, but I’m waiting a few more days for the concrete to harden more fully.  I put sand and pea gravel on today, but I still need to get some more to fill in the gaps a bit better.

Just need some chairs now…

We’re happy with it, but may need to add a few more segments depending on which chairs we end up settling on.  We’ll probably landscape around the patio a bit, but as it’s so shaded there, we need to be careful what, exactly, we plant nearby.  Brooke has a large pot she picked up to get something started for next year already, so that’ll make an appearance once she gets some time.

Ultimately, we want some nice old metal chairs, or something similar, but they’re ridiculously expensive and you kinda need to run into them at antique malls, so we’ll get something for the meantime and keep our eyes open for “just the right chairs” to go there.  It may be a bit before we find exactly what we want.

Also, in the space between the patio and the tomato garden plot, we’re going to put in a raised bed and a make-shift greenhouse for some lettuce.  We want to get that going in the next few weeks so we have time to plant lettuce for the Fall, and perhaps a few other things.  I think Brooke’s going to plant some herbs there, too, but we’ll need to wait until next Spring for those.  We’ll see what she picks, I suppose!