Slow Adventures

October 13, 2009

Hello again,

In this post, I will attempt to explain my absence over the last several months and give a sort of recap of what’s been happening around here.

This blog is about adventures, photography and my relationship with nature.  Sometimes these are exciting times on fast moving rivers, and sometimes they’re stimulating hikes to the top of a mountain.  But sometimes, as is the case in the following post, adventures unfold so slowly that the excitement disguises itself as contentment, or a feeling of accomplishment…  and harvest time has brought my summer’s adventure to light.

The slow adventure of gardening

We moved in during the week of my birthday (June 29) so I didn’t get my garden in until very late.  I did get started on June 30th.

June 30th:

I selected the garden plot, and rented a tiller…

Garden Plot
Garden Plot

I staked out the corners….

staked out corners
Corners: staked

and started digging.

Digging
Digging

With more time, I would have been much more careful about digging the garden.  I had been reading about a deep bed technique, which I will certainly try the next time I have the opportunity to dig a garden, but starting this late in the season, I wanted to get the garden in as fast as possible and deal with the consequences.  All I had done so far is basically to turn the sod over.  This was really a terrible way to start, as the grass was all still in the soil, and would return again and again until all the seed was removed (after a lot of weeding and perseverance).  I knew this, and was willing to  deal with the grass.

Another problem was the rain.  It had been raining without letting up for the past week and the soil was clumpy and didn’t break up well.  This made for huge clumps of hard soil which became rock solid once the sun came out.  It’s also very difficult to plant in clumpy (high clay content), wet soil.  It’s not supposed to be too easy though, right?

July 1st:

Planting
Planting

On July 1st, I planted.  I put in red cabbage, cauliflower, and three types of tomatoes from trays, and carrots, radishes, yellow and green beans, peas and beets, all from seed.

Red Cabbage
Red Cabbage (and cauliflower)
Tomatoes
Tomatoes
And everything else from seed
And everything else from seed

Now that everything was in, I stood back and finally felt like this place was home.

Watching the Garden Grow
Watching the Garden Grow

August:

As the weeks went by, I did have to keep a close eye on the grass the persisted through the soil.  Then some of the plants started from seed began to poke up through the soil and some did not.  The carrots never showed up, and I believe I can thank a squirrel for that.  It seemed to nibble on the tops of the carrots every time it showed through the soil, keeping it from growing at all.  The tomatoes and cabbage were doing well and the radishes grew fast, until the tops were eaten by slugs.  During a trip to Antigonish to visit my brother, he helped me collect a few garbage bags full of seaweed which you can see here being used as mulch around the tomatoes and cabbage.

August
August

Tomatos.  The strip that’s empty up against the plank of wood is where the green beans were supposed to be.  They just didn’t come up at all.  On the other side of the plank on the right is where I had planted more beans, peas and beets.  This mostly was just a nice patch of grass, but some of each did show up.

Tomatoes
Tomatoes

Here’s the cabbage with mulch.  The strip on the end (left) is where the carrots didn’t grow.

Cabbage
Cabbage

September:

In the meantime, I also did some work on the existing plants in the yard.  There was some Virginia Creeper completely taking over the yard in one area.  When I pulled it back, I discovered an apple tree, raspberry bushes, and an existing flower bed which hadn’t been used in years.

Raspberries
Raspberries

The tomatoes were getting so big now, it was time to stake them up.

Sweet Millions
Sweet Millions
September
September

Also, a very important part of gardening is planning ahead.  This year, I didn’t put anything in the soil as far as nutrition or fertilizer.  I did, however, build a compost.  I may not be here next year to benefit from it, but I hope that someone else will take over the garden when I leave and benefit from the rich soil being created in the compost over the coming months.  I used pieces of the fence surrounding the yard that had been knocked down in last winter’s snowfall.

Compost
Compost

I used a hinge and latch system on the front door so that when I can dump the wheelbarrow directly into the compost and it will also make for getting the good soil out in the spring much, much easier.  The barrel rings I discovered under the Virginia Creeper as well and had a hornets’ nest in it.  I use it now as a target when I find a rotten apple at the other side of the yard to get it into the compost.  I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of this compost.

Hinge Door
Hinge Door

I transplanted and staked up the peas and the one surviving yellow bean plant in a row along the edge of the “grass patch.”

Peas
Peas

The beets did considerably well compared to the other seeded plants.

Beets (B- B- Beats, Beats)
Beets (B- B- Beats, Beats)
September
September Garden

Near the Raspberries, I found some Wild Cucumber.  I have heard lots of stories about these being used to pelt each other in fort wars, but I had never seen them before this.  They look very menacing, but the spikes are very soft.  They remind me of the toothbrushes that had that rubber point on the back for getting at those “hard to reach areas.”  Anybody remember those?  Also, these are no good for eating or pickling.  In fact, they’re poisonous.

Wild Cucumber
Wild Cucumber
Wild Cucumber
Wild Cucumber

October:

The cabbage were hit pretty hard by the slugs, and these little green worms, which just had a hay-day with the cabbage and cauliflower during September.

Everybody's Hungry
Everybody’s Hungry

The did considerable damage to the leaves of the cabbage, but it was too late to worry about it.  In fact, I made a decision early on not to worry about the garden.  I did all I could, and whatever came out of it, I was going to be happy with.  The purpose of putting in a garden this year was to make next year’s garden easier and healthier.  So what little I got from the garden in food, was more than made up for in the satisfaction of working in the garden.

Skeletons
Cabbage Skeletons
cauliflower bones
Cauliflower Bones
Radish Ruins
Radish Ruins

The Harvest

Cabbage Harvest
Cabbage Harvest
Box of Cabbage
Box of Cabbage

While I was away for a week on a men’s canoe retreat (coming up in the next post!), Mikey picked every last tomato for me on a night with a frost warning.

Tomato Harvest
Tomato Harvest

They are still slowly ripening in trays by the window.  We eat the ripest ones right away as I hope that enough will ripen together to be able to put some up for the winter.

Tomato tray
Tomato tray
Tomato tray...
Tomato tray…
tomato tray... ripening

tomato tray... ripening

tomato tray... ripening

tomato tray... ripening

Watching these tomatoes ripen reminds me of being on the Patapedia river when I said the leaves on the trees coming out looked like popcorn popping.  It also reminds me of watching the trees turn colors in the fall, some turning bright red, some a golden yellow color, and some stay green for a very long time.

I had wanted  to try to make sauerkraut with the red cabbage, but there wasn’t nearly enough for that, so I made a fresh coleslaw with local carrots, my cabbage, and my secret recipe vinaigrette.  I did try canning for the first time though.  Using some fresh Nova Scotia cranberries, I made a cranberry sauce and canned them.  In two batches, I made ten, half-pint jars.  I can’t wait to try it!

Cranberries
Cranberries

I had even thrown some sprouting potatoes into the garden to see what would happen and I got quite a nice surprise when I pulled them up!  Here are the final peas, tomatoes, cabbage, and potatoes.

Final Harvest
Final Harvest

Which made for a really nice harvest meal of curried chicken, roasted potatoes and coleslaw.

Harvest Meal
Harvest Meal

Nothing tastes as good as food you grow yourself.

3 Responses to “Slow Adventures”

  1. Muriel said

    Wow! Your photos and commentary kept me smiling all the way through! I love reading your blogs!

  2. Found your blog reading about Boundary Rock (excellent story), and just saw this post and your mention of the “deep bed” gardening technique. I assume you mean the “double dig” method (digging to loosen subsoil, then topsoil)?

    If so, I have discussed this topic with my father who said that studies on the Canadian prairies showed this method is not that effective in climates where the subsoil freezes significantly in winter, as the subsoil is loosened by the freeze-thaw action. On the prairies we get frost down 2 metres at times, well into the subsoil. Not sure how that compares where you are in a warmer climate. So this study may or may not apply. Anyway, some food for thought before you break your back on the double dig! 🙂

    • gypsyproductions said

      Hello!
      Yes, I do mean the double dig method. Wow, thanks for the information! Do you have a link or reference for this study. It sounds very interesting. I love to hear from other gardeners (and it sounds like you’re on a fairly large scale) and I love learning new things, especially if it means I don’t have to double dig again! I use buckwheat and then winter rye as a winter cover and to send shoots down to bring up the nutrients from deeper down in the soil. My double dig is only really two shovel depths, I wonder if that still applies. Thanks for your comment and reading the BR story too!

      Cheers!
      Paul

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