Brooke has been wanting to get another round of apple cider made this year before it gets too cold, and this weekend was really the last chance to get that done. Next weekend, the lows are dropping down to the teens once again (it did that a few weeks ago) and we’ve now got a snow chance in the long-term forecast, so really, today was the last opportunity!
Brooke and Calvin did a bit of cider processing earlier in October (mostly our own apples from our tree, as well as a few pears we were able to salvage), but didn’t make as much then as we did last year. This time, we went with two 5-gallon buckets of apples collected from a local seller, as well as some that Brooke’s Dad picked up from one of their properties.
This time, Brooke used a meat grinder to crush the apples before we put them in the press. She quartered them and Meg put them through the grinder, with Calvin scraping them across the cookie sheet toward a bowl for transfer to the press.
The press is always the challenging part, and the kids are amused in trying to crank it just a quarter turn further. The cider presses out, the apple pulp settles a bit, and usually you can crank it just a little bit more. After awhile, we sort of give up, but still keep the rest of the pulp to convert into apple cider vinegar (Brooke was pleased with how it turned out last year!).
While we were outside, we started up the new fire pit and roasted some hot dogs! We got 1.5″ of rain on Friday, so a lot of the sticks were still pretty moist, making it a bit difficult to get a good fire going. We got something out of it, but it wasn’t quite the roaring fire we were hoping for. Still, it was enough to roast some hot dogs!
Ultimately, we ended up with a pretty good haul! The smaller bottles will go in the freezer for smaller volumes. Calvin likes heating up cider and putting a cinnamon stick in it, so this should make it easier for us to make it on a whim without thawing out a ton that’ll go to waste.
Separately from the cider work, Brooke also harvested her gourds. It still may take another 6 months before we can actually make bowls out of them. We’ve got to find a “cool, dry place” for them, which will have to be our basement, despite the fact that it’s only really “cool” and rarely ever “dry.” Still, we don’t have much of a choice of where to put them!
In keeping with hair-brained ideas of what to grow in our garden, and maintaining our theme of producing “sweet things” (i.e. honey and maple syrup), Brooke decided to try growing sorghum. She’d read that the stalks of the sorghum could be ground up using a relatively cheap, electric wood chipper, and then she thought we could use the apple cider press we already had to squeeze the sorghum to juice it.
First of all, Brooke set aside Sunday to harvest the two rows of sorghum she grew. It did a good job “training” the soup beans to climb the stalks, so that kept the vines out of the yard this year. Brooke had to untangle some of that a bit in order to cut the stalks down, then we removed the tassels from the top and the leaves, as those aren’t necessary to get the sorghum goo out (it probably has a technical name, but I’m too lazy to look it up. “Goo,” it is.).
I tossed the leaves back onto the garden plot to let them decompose there, hopefully returning some nutrients back to the soil. We ended up with a decent number of stalks! It’s a bit tough to gather how many more we need in order to make more of the end product but, well….we’ll get there…
The wood chipper we picked up from Harbor Freight did a good job! I haven’t been happy with it for chipping sticks and leaves, as the opening at the top is very narrow (for safety reasons), making it annoying to get wide sticks that have fallen with leaves on them into the thing. For this purpose though, it’s perfect: the stalks are straight, you just shove ’em in there, and they’re chopped up efficiently.
The cider press, however, didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. It worked just fine for apples, especially after we chopped them up a bit, but there just isn’t enough water in the stalks of the sorghum plants to have much “juice” come out! Brooke was able to get a little out, but it wasn’t an efficient method of extraction. So, she had to resort to “plan B.”
She grabbed a big pot she had downstairs and effectively made a “sorghum tea” out of it. This ended up involving soaking the sliced-and-diced stalks in water, then trying to game out when the tea was “done” (i.e. as close to “fully extracted” as we’d get). I’m sure this process could be refined with something like a refractometer, but Brooke was just looking to “pilot” this process and refine it next time. The question was: how much will we get from two rows of sorghum?
Answer? A quart jar. She heated the liquid to 210 F for awhile, which is what she read the right temp was to do the job without causing undue crystallization. The color looked good! The taste isn’t quite as “molasses-y” as I think we expected, but to be fair, molasses doesn’t come from sorghum, so of course it doesn’t taste identical. It’s definitely sweet, though, and sticky. I don’t really pick up as much flavor as I do from molasses, though? There’s a “burnt” quality to molasses that this doesn’t really have. I think Brooke picked up more flavors than I did.
In the end, we didn’t get a ton, so likely isn’t going to be a process we can take advantage of to make enough to sell it or anything. We’ll just have to see how good it tastes in cookies: then we can decide if it’s worth it!
Normally, this time of year, the garden would be running a bit low on productivity, but this year, it sure seems like we’ve got a long(ish) way to go! It sure looks good, too, despite the notable lack of rain this Summer. I haven’t had to water for a few weeks, and the temperatures have been a bit milder recently.
The sweet potatoes are growing well (not really pictured, but just off to the right of this image), but the main story is the bottle gourds…which are apparently a thing?? Brooke picked up these seeds mostly on a whim and they’ve taken over the garden, and there are quite a few gourds growing (three in the image above – we’ve got almost 10, maybe?). I’m still not sure what, exactly, we’re going to do with them. I suppose we could carve one up like a pumpkin for Halloween?
In this shot, we’re still seeing a lot of bottle gourd plant matter (all those big leaves), but we’ve also got some zinnias! It sure took them a long time to get going this year, but Brooke’s had enough to pick here and there to bring into the house. I think she’s still planning on starting a new flower plot next year, so maybe the zinnias will move out there, but for now, randomly interspersed among the gourd plants, we’re still getting something out of them.
The sorghum are still doing their thing, of course. The tassels are mostly brown at the top, but it looks like they have grown secondary stalks, which is something we didn’t expect. The secondary ones are still green, so it may take a bit before we can do anything about them. When Brooke’s ready, we’ll use her new electric wood chipper to process them and see if we can get more than a teaspoon of molasses.
The beans are still coming along, too (pictured a few shots below). Brooke’s working on soup beans, and that will probably continue for the rest of the month. She ended up picking some green beans yesterday, despite the fact that we’d normally be done with them a month ago. She’s canned 9 pints of green beans so far, and she likely got enough for another 3 or 4 more. It wasn’t looking good earlier in the Summer, and we definitely don’t have as many beans as we normally would, but at least we’re recovering a bit compared to previous years!
The tomatoes needed some TLC, so last week, we removed as much of the greenery as we could while still leaving the green tomatoes on. We finally got a few “slicers” to ripen, but we still don’t have as good a haul of those as we have in the past few years. On the other hand, we’ve got a ton of romas this year, so we should be in good shape in the tomato sauce department.
The bell peppers, though…they’re a whole other thing. We haven’t had this good a pepper year since we lived in Iowa, and these last few Summers, I’ve questioned whether it’s even worth planting them because we get only a few peppers, sometimes one or two per plant. Well this year, we’ve got buckets full of them, to the point where the plants are so overloaded that they’re falling over (as seen above).
Those are some nice looking peppers, right?? And we’ve got multiple fridge crispers with more in them. And we’ve been giving peppers away because we’ve got so many. It’s. Nuts.
We’ve still got quite a few romas on the vine, as well as cherry tomatoes, but we’re about out of “big beef”-style ‘maters, sadly. Those are the ones I’d rather have, of course, but so long as we’re getting a lot of the others (and we are), it isn’t a total loss.
The peach haul this year was very disappointing, but the apple trees are actually doing pretty well! We won’t have enough to get a ton of cider out of them from our cider press, but they’ll definitely supplement whatever other apples we get from Peter’s. We’ve also picked some pears, but we aren’t sure they’re quite ready yet. Some are rotting on the tree, while the ones we preemptively pick don’t seem to be ripe. We’ll just keep trying, I suppose!
Last, but not least, the tobacco plant! It’s gigantic, and the flowers at the top are kinda pretty! The leaves started to turn yellow toward the bottom, suggesting that they were ready to be picked.
The leaves have been at a good size for weeks now, but only recently did we think it was time to try and dry a few. Not that we know what we’re doing, but you can see how the edges of the leaves are lightening up relative to the rest of the green centers.
And so, we’ve got some hanging up in the garage attic! It will be plenty warm up there, and hopefully humid enough to dry the leaves without overdrying (which is a concern). The whole point of the leaves are for them to produce smoke when lit, which means they need to be at least somewhat moist. Whether this particular setup actually ends up being the right one or not remains to be seen.
There’s probably a month left before we shut it all down for 2022! We’ve gotten plenty of produce this year, despite the fact that the proportions of fruits and veggies were different than we usually get. It keeps things interesting from year to year, I suppose!
So, we were gone for two weeks in June, and then it took a bit of catch-up time to make the garden not look like a trainwreck of weeds. We’ve been battling Japanese beetles and weeds for a few weeks now, between various trips to Hannibal, Springfield, etc. for a variety of reasons. Brooke was able to get a lot of weeding done a few weekends ago, and I’m trying to clean up other bits where I can during the week.
Firstly, the kale (seen above) remarkably survived this far into the Summer. It actually looks pretty good! But it’s starting to taste extra “kale-y,” so while Brooke harvested some and dehydrated it into powder, she’s not doing too much else with it. The bees tend to like the flowers from the kale plants, so she’s waiting for those to show up before we pull them out.
The zinnias kinda came up, but not nearly as well as last year. Old seed? Supplanted by other things? Who knows. Still, we got a few plants to getmoving.
The zucchini did about as well as they normally do. We got maybe 4 or 5 pretty large zucchini before the plants shriveled up and died, seemingly similar to what happened last year. We’ve still got a few on the plants, though, so we’re hopeful we get to use them.
We also have a few volunteer…somethings out there. Watermelon? Pumpkins? Who knows. We’ll know by August!
Brooke tried planting tobacco, and it appears to be growing remarkably well! Dunno what we’re going to do with it (I have a few friends who like cigars, so figured it’d be interesting to see if we can dry them out and actually do something? Hopes are not high for this to be a useful thing…)
In the above picture, you can also see sweet potatoes in the bottom-left corner. Brooke planted them way later than usual (we still have some potatoes from last year), so I’m having to water them relatively frequently to try and keep them alive. They’ve lasted through a ridiculous heat wave for a few weeks, so we’ll see! They always seem to surprise us.
The tomatoes are doing pretty well! We’re stringing them up like we did last year, and there are a lot of romas and, of course, cherry tomatoes coming on. We’ve seen a few slicer tomatoes on there, but as usual, we don’t do a good job of pruning early on in the growth of the plant, so we should probably have more on there…and they should be riper than they are (too much foliage blocking them).
The peppers are doing pretty well, too! We normally don’t have 6+ plants survive, so it’s kind of remarkable they look as good as they do. They’re pretty good about telling me when they need water (which is near constant…). They were watered before this picture above was taken, though, so I don’t know why they’re complaining. Jerks.
See! Big pepper! We’ve got 5 or 6 big ones like that on different plants right now. So while we don’t have the number of peppers I’d prefer, we sure have a bunch of big ones!
The beans, though, have been a disappointment this year. The season isn’t over yet, but we’ve only ended up with a few handfuls so far, unlike last year or the year before (or any other year, for that matter). The soup beans look alright, but they usually don’t develop much until later in the season.
You can also see Brooke’s sorghum growing in the above picture! They look good! No idea how much molasses she’ll be able to make from that crop, but we’ll see. She’s hoping she can convince her Dad to plant a lot of sorghum at his house, but we need to run a “pilot program” here first to see what we’re looking at. Honey and molasses seem like good things to make, eh?
Last, but not least, the bees live! We’ve got 5 supers on the three hive boxes now, and any time Brooke has gotten into them, they’ve had plenty of brood and capped honey, especially on that big hive. The last time she looked in the middle one, she didn’t see much in the way of brood, but considering that bees are still coming and going, and doing so in an organized fashion, sure seems like the hive is doing better than she originally anticipated. We’re going to extract on July 30th, so we’ll find out soon enough!
First of all, I’ve been trying to get this one posted for a bit, but ran into a problem with WordPress where it wouldn’t let me post pictures. Fixed it, but I’m keeping the original date!
This is, perhaps, the earliest we’ve actually had most of the garden planted. This is despite it seeming to rain quite a bit and be otherwise dreary for much of the Spring. Brooke tried burning a lot of the leaves/branches/detritus back in February, but between rain and high winds, she was having trouble fitting it in. Ultimately, she got it done in early-April.
I tilled the garden on April 15th (Good Friday, so I was off work, anyway), and that gave it about a week until April 23rd when we actually planted a decent amount of stuff. Every year, we pull up the concrete bricks to do a good job with weeds before things get too crazy, but I usually do this after school’s out. We had enough time on April 23rd, though, and Brooke was in full planting mode, so we went ahead and worked on weeds quite a bit that day while also planting. It looked pretty good for awhile!
Brooke also got things like the tomatoes and peppers planted, though those were already plants that had a head start. We kept them covered with milk jugs for a few weeks, but it sure felt like less time than we sometimes spend on it.
I also ended up getting a lot of grass clippings started pretty early on. Our new mower doesn’t have a side chute, so it either mulches, or we have to catch the grass in the bag, so it didn’t take long to get a solid amount collected.
The main time sink, though, was working on the strawberries. Brooke transplanted some of them from outside our brick border to further down in the patch. She also thinned things out a bit and moved plants around so she could lay down some straw to act as spaces where we could actually get to the center of the patch and pick some strawberries. By this point in late-April, we already had some flowers on the plants, and now that it’s been a few weeks, we already have strawberries on! More on that next time, though…
Another project for the weekend was to split the remaining beehive. Brooke called this a “walk away split,” where she transferred some frames with brood over to another hive box. She had ordered another nuc that would take the third slot in our little bee patch, but the existing hive had so many bees that they were likely to swarm eventually, so this seemed like the right time to try something different! Calvin helped, too, using his own bee suit….that doesn’t fit all that well yet, but he’ll grow into it. 🙂
Hopefully I’ll get another post up in a week or so, as the garden is already a bit further along than when these pictures were taken. It’s looking pretty good so far! Plenty of time left this Summer to get some produce!
Back in February of 2021, Brooke’s Dad had the idea of tapping a few of his silver maple trees to see if he could get enough sap to make syrup. Always her father’s daughter, Brooke decided to spend the ~$20 on a tapping kit from Amazon to see what we can get out of our sugar maple trees in the yard. Because those were practically the only thing on our property not being harvested for something (hence the title of this post).
We left the trees tapped for a few weeks, but in order to get a solid haul of sap, the temperatures need to be below freezing at night, and warm up a bit during the day. Last year, we had a solid stretch of days like that, but we weren’t prepared for the volume we would end up with. We ended up collecting enough to fill every vessel in the house (a lot of bottles used for brewing, various plastic containers, etc.) and take up a substantial amount of refrigerator space.
We used my turkey fryer that’s usually reserved for making beer (and now making syrup). We went through a few propane tanks in boiling off water and concentrating syrup down to its final viscosity. Brooke had to be careful with this, as boiling over is an issue (and it turns out sap is sticky), and over-concentrating the syrup could lead to crystallization.
In the end, we got 12 half-pint jars canned. It tasted good! More “runny” than I’m used to, but the flavor was shockingly good!
So this year, Brooke set up the rig again, but the temperatures were all over the place. January was warm at various points, we had multiple weeks with at least 2 snow days, so the “below freezing at night” and “sunny and warmer during the day” was few and far between. Brooke even disconnected the piping once to try and prevent mold from growing.
This time, Brooke planned ahead and saved gallon milk jugs. They were easier to store in the fridge(s), and we didn’t have to burn through almost all the glassware we have in the house. She also started the boiling process sooner this time, rather than waiting for the collection process to be done. Brooke figured that she could keep concentrating it over time while still collecting, and for the most part, that worked. But, we ended up collecting way more than last year. She estimates she collected 40(ish) gallons of sap this time around, so accordingly, we also ended up burning through three propane tanks (when oil prices are through the roof….yeah….we made expensive syrup…).
After Brooke reduced the volume down to one pot’s worth, she brought it inside to our gas range where she had a bit more temperature control. From there, she kept reducing the volume as much as she needed to, and kept it at the right temperature (219 F) to can it. This year, we ended up with 9 pints of syrup.
Now, is all of this processing worth it?! Well, our syrup cost $0.43/oz, which feels a bit pricey, but then again, we don’t always keep true maple syrup around. It’s an activity in the winter months, though, when we can’t grow anything outside and don’t usually have other projects going on (2021 notwithstanding…). When the weather is nice, it’s kinda charming hanging out in the garage having a beer while the sap evaporates!
I started writing this a week ago, but I realized I didn’t have any recent pictures of the garden as a whole, so I had to wait until I mowed the lawn and took some more. It’s been awhile since I’ve updated, eh?
As is typical for this time of year, some parts of the garden have slowed their production, while others have been picking up in recent weeks. Most notably, we’re well into tomato season, and this year’s crop has been substantially better than last year’s.
Why that is, exactly, is probably up for debate. On the one hand, we moved the plot from last year, it’s received plenty of sun, we’ve been around to keep it watered, and we didn’t have any major storms come through to drop hail on the plants this year. We also added some compost to each plant. On the other hand, because we’ve been here for most of July/August, Brooke was able to keep an eye on the plants and “trellis” them more appropriately than we are usually able to. That, and she’s trimmed them back a few times. It’s probably a combination of multiple factors, really, but either way…
…the tomatoes are doing fine! It was very hot in mid-August, so Brooke didn’t really want to do much canning, so she’s just been freezing tomatoes wherever we can stick them (as of this writing, we’re supposed to get our new basement fridge today, but we’ll see…we need that in order to make more freezer space available for produce!!).
Otherwise, we’ve still got soup beans on the vine(s). Brooke was going to pick those last week, but then it rained, so we’ll have to wait. She’s picked some already, as well as our other dried bean plants, but there are still quite a few soup beans yet to be picked.
Our sweet potatoes are also there in the background, moving along nicely!
As far as other things on the horizon, we’ve got a ton of apples falling off the tree! Way more than we usually have. We’ll probably pick them tomorrow so Brooke can process them into some applesauce. I’ve only tried the green ones so far, but the red ones we’ve got are new this year, and those came off the tree that fell over in late-June.
The other big news is that we actually got a few almonds this year! We haven’t eaten one yet, but we got a few! Crazy, right?! We waited until their shells popped open, then pulled these out and have been drying them for a bit. Maybe we’ll have Calvin try one, first….
Last, but not least, Brooke pulled 18 frames out of one of her hives last Thursday and we took them to Hannibal for extraction over Labor Day Weekend. We ended up with almost 60 lbs of honey, putting our total for the year close to 90 lbs. That’s quite a bit! We’ll probably have the kids sell some tomorrow, though getting enough half pint jars to put honey in for sales is still a challenge with ongoing supply shortages. Still, Brooke is pretty sure the value of the honey she’s collected this year offsets the purchase of bees for the year, so that’s a plus!
Actually, one more thing: we procured some strawberry plants from a coworker of mine that was wanting to thin their plot out, so we’ve expanded the strawberry patch a bit. No idea whether they’ll “take” or not, but I’m having to water them a bit to keep them happy, as we’re in something of a dry/hot spell this coming weekend. Brooke dug out the raspberry/blackberry “bushes” in the process and I’m going to make some more concrete bricks to line the plot, so we’ll probably just go exclusively strawberries in that space for the next few years. At least, until they die off and we get bored and want to put something else there…
There will probably be one more post later this month or early next month. There isn’t much more growing, but the garden isn’t quite done with us yet!
The garden is doing well, though I feel like it’s been a bit less prolific than previous years. We had a lot of rain in mid-to-late June, and now these last few weeks, it’s been mostly hot and humid, so we’ve had to return to watering. It’s not like we aren’t getting anything, but it just feels like we’ve got more “lulls” between harvests.
The beans, for example, are truckin’ along. Brooke’s canned at least 12 pints of beans thus far and there’s still more coming. We’ve picked every 3 days or so and are getting an ice cream bucket’s worth every time we go out.
Again, have we had more than that in the past? Sure. But we also planted shorter rows this year and got stuff in a little late, so it hasn’t been optimal conditions. Still, the green beans are coming in fine, as well as the other beans planted in that plot. We’ve got plenty of pods on there for the beans that need to dry over the next few months and, at this rate, it may only take a few weeks…
The tomatoes are also coming on, but again, slower than I’d like. I guess they aren’t too far behind usual, and we’ve actually got a decent number of ‘maters on there, but we literally have our first reddish one on now, so we haven’t actually had one yet. We’re on track to have some in the next week or two, so hopefully it keeps up. I just need to keep watering.
The zucchini worked alright for a bit, but randomly, 2 of our 3 plants just kinda….died….all of the sudden? Their big leaves went down and wilted first, and then it was just over. We’ve got one plant left that I’m nursing a bit, so hopefully it keeps producing. We’ve had 4-5 good sized zucchini so far this year and, frankly, that’s probably all I really need, but Brooke would still like a dehydrated supply to put in pasta sauces, etc. over the winter.
The zinnias Brooke planted have caught up and are doing a good job entertaining the bees. Honestly, I don’t see all that many bees on there, but it’s what I’m telling myself. They’re attracting butterflies and moths though, so at least other pollinators are taking advantage!
The soup beans are planted between the zucchini and zinnias. They’re doing their thing. We’ll have plenty, as usual, in October.
The more recent news involves the fruit trees. The Japanese beetles are out in full force, not as bad as two years ago, but still pretty terrible. The peaches are just starting to turn, so we went ahead and picked a bunch today.
There’s still a lot on there, so hopefully we’ve slowed the beetle’s appetite a bit by taking the ones they were about to feed on, while sparing the ones that aren’t ready yet? That’s what I’m telling myself at least. As usual, I’m not sure the neem oil is doing anything, but I’m still doing it, anyway…
We’ve got two fruiting pear trees, one of which produces an Asian-variety and has tons on it (but we never know when to pick them….like….every year….), and the other tree has never fruited before until this year! And of the two pears we can see on the tree, one of them is covered in beetles. Ug.
The two apple trees are doing their thing. With the flooding we had a month ago (which, yes, I will post about at some point….), one of the trees fell over and had to be propped up…twice… Still, there are still apples on there and they’re looking good!
And pictured above, we’ve still got almonds! I think we’ve got 7 up there, maybe? Definitely more than last year. Are we guaranteed to actually get to eat them this time? Uh, absolutely not. But hey, here’s hoping!
And last, but not least, we harvested honey a few weeks ago! The “package” hive is doing well and we got maybe 30 lbs of honey from it (plus some excess from the wax Brooke brought back from her parents’ house). The “nuc” hive is a bit more problematic. For some reason, they bees weren’t heading up into the super and didn’t put any honey there, even though it seemed like there was plenty of honey and brood in the bottom, deep hives. It was kind of weird, so Brooke will be getting back into it sometime soon to see if they’ve started pushing upward. With as dry as it’s been, there may be more capped honey in there, but we’re also slowing down a bit as we’re in the “dog days of Summer.”
Hopefully we have more tomatoes by the next time I update things!
The garden’s off to a decent start for the year! We had a relatively mild late-May, but it seems like the sun’s been out for the last few weeks now and we’re already having to water everything to keep stuff growing.
The kale is over and done with, but we left it out for awhile because it seemed like the bees were enjoying the flowers. Brooke planted a few more kale plants that are still out there (aside from that gigantic one on the right that’s very much gone to seed…), but with the heat, I doubt they’re going to last long. We also don’t have any spinach in there either, so I’ll probably just be trying to keep a lid on the weeds until we decide what to put there.
One of the squash plants Brooke put in didn’t make it, but the other three are moving along. The soup beans in the background are moving along, though they aren’t particularly large yet. The flowers Brooke planted seemingly a month ago really haven’t done much, surprisingly, so I’m not holding my breath.
The other bean plants, though, are doing great. They’ve started to flower a bit, but no pods have shown up. I need to do some more weeding around the plants, but if we keep them watered, I suspect we’ll have plenty to pick in 3-4 weeks.
The tomatoes are looking good, too! We’ve got 16 plants, one of which looks to be on the outs, but relatively speaking, that’s pretty good. We’ve also got 4 pepper plants, one of which already has 3 baby peppers on it.
We’re struggling with the trellis system, though. We were going to get cattle panels, cut them, and bend them into cages, but we’re looking at $150 for that kind of an upgrade. This year, we’ll probably still go on with some metal fence posts and string to wrap around the plants as they get taller. There are a few plants that are tall enough that they need some support, so this weekend, we’ll probably get out there get it set up.
The strawberries are done for the year. This past weekend, Brooke went out there and transplanted all of the shoots that had inserted themselves outside the bounds of the border and moved them to the surrounding area. We added some grass clippings and compost to bury them, but now we need to keep an eye on them and keep them wet. Really any additional strawberry plants are a “bonus,” so if anything survives, great! But if now, then ah well.
Brooke thinks we ended up with 15 quarts of strawberries by the end, which is more than last year by a decent amount. She made some freezer jam with it, and otherwise, we just tried sharing them with neighbors. We were gone to Florida during the height of picking, but the neighbors were able to keep tabs on them and make sure someone enjoyed them. They saved us plenty, too!
The cherries have been the next thing to deal with! Brooke made a cobbler with some of them, so now we’re struggling with what to do with the rest. We’ll probably leave some for Calvin, since he really liked eating them last year, but Brooke may try to make some canned cherry pie filling for use later on in the year!
Similar to the strawberries, the cherries were probably “ready” while we were in Florida, though they were still delayed a bit relative to the strawberries. Last year, Calvin would go out daily and just pick and eat them by the handful. This year, he hasn’t been here enough to do that! There’s always next year, I suppose.
Last but not least, Brooke got into the bees last weekend and they looked great! She put another super on the nuc hive, so hopefully we’re ready to start extracting around July 4th. We may take some to Hannibal this year, as we should have a little more time to get an extraction in among the usual mud volleyball festivities. As you can see above, the frames don’t look capped, but there’s plenty of honey in there, so give it a few weeks and we should be good to go.
We probably don’t have much more to harvest until July! Once the beans come on, we’ll be busy with more!
We’re a bit late to get our planting in this season, largely because the weather has been very inconsistent (i.e. rain, cold, cloudy, etc.), but also because we were gone to Yellowstone last week (more on that in future posts!). Brooke also had grand plans to burn a large pile of leaves and branches a month or so ago, but because we kept having cold, wet weather, the pile never quite caught fire.
She did get some spinach and kale planted in one of the plots, though some of the kale survived from last year (flowering above). We had a nice spinach salad last weekend, so we’re getting plenty of it, and Brooke dehydrated and chopped up some kale a few weeks ago for smoothies, so the “leafy greens” side of the garden has been working just fine so far. She also planted some flowers that are starting to pop up in the foreground of this shot.
Today, I tilled the rest of the garden after Brooke raked off the remnants of the “burn pile that wouldn’t burn.” She planted green beans, pinto beans, black beans, and soup beans (that one’s close to the existing kale and spinach plot), and we plugged in tomatoes and various pepper varieties in another plot (pictured above with the milk jugs on top). We think the tomatoes and peppers have waned a bit in recent years, so Brooke grabbed some manure bags today to try and supplement a bit, so hopefully that makes a difference this time around.
The strawberries are back in full swing. We’re going to be gone again in early June which, based on last year’s pictures, we should then have fruit ready. The plot has branched out a bit, so we definitely have more plants than last year. Hopefully that leads to more strawberries! Also, it looks like the raspberries have randomly decided they’re going to start shooting up more branches after 4 years?? It’s a bit weird….to be filling in…now….
The fruit trees are also moving along! We had a crazy cold spell a few weeks ago, so we were a bit afraid of whether the trees would bear anything, but low and behold, they have. Above, we’ve got some almonds growing, though still not all that many. Maybe 5 on the tree right now? There could be some higher off the ground, but we aren’t expecting much.
There are a metric tons of cherries, though. Again, the cherries will probably be ready when we’re out of town, so hopefully the birds leave a few for us…Calvin will be very disappointed if there aren’t any left for him…
The apples and peaches are also coming on well, though some of the branches on the peach tree look a bit dicey, for some reason (like, no leaves on some of the larger branches? Strangely?!). So yeah, there are definitely peaches on there, but it’s tough to know whether we’ll have as many as last year.
Last, but not least, we have new tenants in the beehives! Brooke got a package for the tall one and a nuc for the smaller one, a few weeks separated from one another. They’ve been relatively active, despite the lack of quality weather. She’s probably going to add a super to the big hive tomorrow, and maybe another deep on the nuc hive. We expanded the bee area a month or so ago so that I can mow near the boxes more easily, and also to level out the boxes better (there used to be a tree in the ground behind where those boxes are, so there’s some ground sinking slowly…making it hard to keep the boxes level long-term…). There’s a spot for a third box, but we’ll probably just wait until we get a split from Brooke’s Dad.
The flowers I grabbed from Mom and Dad’s house last year also came back pretty well, too. The columbine has been flowering for a few weeks now, and the irises came out while we were gone on vacation. This plot of flowers are probably going to spread out quite a bit over the summer, so I’ll have to keep an eye on it. I’m sure the bees will be happy, though!
It’s supposed to rain quite a bit over the next week, so hopefully we’ll have more to share in a month!