Wednesday, April 21, 2010

One More Step on a Long Road


My garden is started, and I'd say it's coming along fairly well. I haven't gotten everything in yet, however, and I'm hoping it's not to late to plant a few more things from seed. Out here things need to be started pretty early in the year because of the long growing season and the extreme hot and dry days coming up later on.

I took some pictures at different stages and I will try to post a few soon. I uploaded all of my recent pictures to my old computer last week, but since then I got an amazing new laptop that I have been using almost exclusively, so I don't have immediate access to them. My other computer is very old and is really having some serious problems, but I'll try to get over there and get a few of them up.

So far, this is what I have already growing in my garden: potatoes, red onions, sweet onions, elephant garlic, which is actually more of a wonderful leek, basil, dill, lemon balm, rosemary, a few green bean bushes, spaghetti squash, some early girl tomatoes, because they reportedly do fairly well out here, a few other heirloom variety tomatoes, and a pot with some cherry tomatoes to sit nearer the house. That makes them handy for snackin', and if it gets too hot I can move them out of the heat.

There is some sort of volunteer plant coming up over against the fence. I don't know what it is, but it's thriving! It's a remnant of a bygone garden attempt, and therefore probably either a squash, cucumber, a melon, or a gourd. I think that is all I would have planted near the fence. It's a section of fence that we erected in order to keep the dogs away from a newly planted tree so that they wouldn't chew it off at the ground. Ten or twelve or so years, many feet of tree growth, and several dogs later, it's only purpose for years now has been to support climbing garden plants. I don't think I would have planted anything else over there.

I planted a blackberry bush at the end post of that same fence. I'm very happy about that! It seems to be pretty content in it's little spot. I am hoping to find a raspberry bush to plant near it, on the opposite end post. Eventually I would like to have rows of berries. I don't think I can ever get enough. I love berries.

I bought some strawberry starts, too, but they are still in the little six pack they came in. My husband thinks I'm trying to kill them by not getting the poor things in the ground, but actually I'm trying to gather some containers and fix them to my fence like hanging baskets. I think I'd rather have them there. I don't have a lot of garden space yet, and I would like to better utilize what I do have by growing things in it that need the space. Some of the things I want to grow will probably do just as well in planters or baskets as they would in my garden space, so I am planning on pulling a rabbit out of the hat and starting chard, lettuce, radishes, and my strawberries in those kinds of containers. I have a ton of big ideas, but if I don't get them underway I'm going to miss my opportunity.

I seeded a few zucchini plants along another stretch of the same old fence. I have some watermelon and a few decorative gourds planted in hills along the back of my garden as well. I hope they come up soon. Almost immediately after I planted them it turned unseasonably cool, and the wind blew so hard it probably dried the hills out, so right away I start to wonder if they will survive it all. I tried to keep them wet. We shall see.

"The farmer sleeps at night and is up and around during the day. Yet the seeds keep sprouting and growing, and he doesn't understand how." Mark 4:27 (CEV)

I still have cucumbers and cantaloupe seeds to plant. I've run out of fence to plant them near, so I'm going to have to rig some sort of trellises for them. I also found some brussel sprout seeds, but the cool weather came and went, and the chance to plant them, or any cabbage or kale, slipped unceremoniously past.

I have some green pepper seeds someplace around here, and I think I'm going to throw a few of those in when I find them. To me, a garden isn't complete without green peppers. I think they will do alright. I have quite a bit of mulch to cover things with once they get up and growing. That will help keep the moisture in, and that's really the biggest concern. The blazing sun is always an issue when it hits, whether the plants are big or small. We have talked about erecting some kind of a sun screen to protect things, but we never have. Maybe this is the year for it.

I get a little aggravated with gardening out here. I know once I get everything up and running it will be fun and wonderful and everything I was hoping it would be, but with all the expense of constructing shelters and shades, and for all the extra water and everything we have to do to make it work, we would be almost as well off to pay for produce at the store! I do take comfort in knowing that the food will be actual food, and it will be more nutritious for the family, and that every year that we make improvements to the garden areas will serve to make it more and more self sustaining until someday it wont be necessary to buy any more props or artificial aids from the store. Meanwhile, I guess I will continue propping it all up.

Hopefully I will have a successful garden this year and will have plenty to put up. I haven't canned in many years, but I think I remember how. Between me and google, we got it! I have a water bath canner, but my next acquisition should probably be a pressure canner. I would like a nice, big, stainless steel one. I found one at Amazon for $99.00, and that is really a pretty good price. Maybe by the time I need it I will have found a way to get it.

I'm scanning yard sales and second hand stores for pressure canners, too. You never know, I might get lucky. I'm really hoping for two. I want the one big one for canning, but I would also love to have a smaller one to cook in. I can remember my grandma cooking in one. It was a long time ago, but I remember the food being good, and I remember her talking about how fast it was. I can't remember the cook times, but I can remember the fork tender pot roast and back bone. I know you can start food from a frozen state and still cook it quickly. That would be quite a bonus around here since we don't use a microwave and I'm notorious for forgetting to thaw the meat.

Last week end I picked up six cases of Ball jars with the rings and lids at the church yard sale. I got them for two dollars a case! I was so excited. I already have several cases of large jars in my shed. Now I can add a few more, and several cases of smaller jars to go along with them. There were some tiny wide mouth jars among them. I think I may try to make a few pies in them. I saw a recipe for some tiny fruit pies that are made right in the jars, and can be frozen and later baked or reheated in the same jars. I think it would be a fun thing to try. It would be a handy snack for my husbands lunch box. Maybe I will get enough blackberries to make a few pies out of them.

We haven't completed the patio, but it should be done soon. It's all ready to go, but it is on hold until my husband gets a few days off back to back. We have to get some sand and then set the cement pieces in, but I don't think I'm strong enough to move them all on my own. Once it is finished, I'm going to set some containers on the south end with lettuce and chard in them. That will not only save space, taste good, and be handy, but it will look nice, too.

We have acquired a nice, big table to use in the work area. I don't have a potting shed, just a shady area under a tree, but perfect for a nice table and for a staging area for whatever I find myself doing out there. I have to pick it up this week. A good coating of polyurethane or some other sealer is all it will need to be in full time service. Meanwhile I have a big piece of plywood propped on two sawhorses, all things that could be put to better use elsewhere. The plywood is about ready to be turned into a set of shelves in my kitchen. That is a plan that's been put on hold for far too long. It will be the biggest single improvement to the inside of my house and to improving my daily life and schedule in many years.

We still haven't done anything concrete about setting up any water catchment. I inquired after a few large containers but I haven't heard anything back about them. I'll follow up on that tonight. We have researched it a bit and know fairly well what we plan to do once we get the big containers. It will be a huge thing for us to be able to water our garden from rain barrels. That is probably one of the projects that is working it's way to the top of the priorities list.

I am learning as I go. I am planning to start saving seeds, composting on a larger scale, making small structural improvements, and marking what did and didn't work well. I'm going to can and dry some of the produce, if we get enough and it's not all eaten. I plan to get a few laying hens. I have a little roost and an area that could be pretty easily and inexpensively changed over and prepared for them. I'm not sure when I'm going to do that, though. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew at the expense of the chickens. I'm doing well to keep up with what I have, if you can call what I'm doing 'keeping up'.

Well, that's the update. I will post when more happens. I'll probably post when more doesn't happen. ;-)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010



I read this in a wonderful blog this morning that spoke straight into my heart:

A rich industrialist was horrified to find a fisherman lying comfortably beside his boat, smoking his pipe.
“Why aren’t you out fishing?” asked the industrialist.
“I’ve caught enough fish for the day,” said the fisherman.
”Why don’t you catch some more?”
”What would I do with them?”
”Earn more money. Then you could have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters to catch more fish. That would bring you money to buy nylon nets, so more fish, more money. Soon you would have enough to buy two boats, even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me!”
“What would I do then?” The fisherman asked.
”Then you could sit back and enjoy life!”
”What do you think I’m doing right now?”

I was actually formulating a blog of my own, and having difficulty putting into cohesive thoughts when I read this, here:

Gloriosity! I am not alone!

My family is full of people who have been successful in business. Many are college educated, and many who were not were still 'hard workers' who climbed the ladder of success and have all of the rewards one would expect from such a life; nice homes, nice cars, kids in college, exotic vacations. They have made their lives into what they had always wanted them to be. For them, they are successful.

They are a generally kind bunch of folks, loving and all, but several of them have never understood why I was such a comparative failure. Why is it that Rhenda could never seem to progress? Why couldn't Rhenda ever get ahead? Why didn't Rhenda ever 'straighten up'? Because Rhenda was cut from the fisherman's cloth. I have wonderful news, friends and family. I am a raging success, far surpassing my hopes and dreams! I am set on the path that my heart would keep and I'm squarely in the middle of the will of God for my life. I am crazy successful! Be happy for me!

My husband and I have arrived at an age where we are considering our retirement. We are not old, but plans must be laid if you are to achieve the desired results, and I just ca not help but chuckle a bit when I think of what kind of reactions I might get from my family if they knew my plans. I would never cast them in a light that makes them seem haughty or judgmental. They are not. They are wonderful people. Given enough time to explain myself they would, in fact, understand, and probably be very happy for me even if they did think me a bit odd. That wouldn't be anything new.

There are many people out there, however, that presume to understand all there is to know about life, progress, happiness and success, and how one achieves them, who would not understand. Their lack of understanding would make me wrong and somehow substandard in their eyes. Some would try to force me to change. Maybe they'd send me for counseling or medication. Maybe they'd try to raise my awareness and send me for some kind of re-education. Some would just seek to legislate against 'me and my kind' because it's not normal and they can not abide my presence as it is.

I remember a news show I saw once. It was on FOX news' Bill O'Reilly show. Now, I don't think Bill O'Reilly is an evil man. There was a similar magazine type of a program by Diane Sawyer that gained a lot more notoriety, so I suppose I should mention it as well; spread the wealth. It just happened to be during the Bill O'Reilly piece that I began to put things together in my own mind.

Mr. O'Reilly was absolutely repulsed by the lifestyle that the Appalachian mountain people had chosen for themselves. 'They' were poor, and lived in hovels! 'They' needed care! The government was going to have to step in to help 'those' poor souls! 'They' lived in shacks out in the mountains and 'their' culture hadn't progressed for generations. Oh my! It was going to cost tax payers money for the government to go in there and change 'those' people, protect 'their' children and bring 'them' up to a more acceptable level.

Acceptable to whom? Bill O'Reilly? Diane Sawyer? The federal government? They did not ask for government help, so save your money. Their lives were of their choosing in a place and style that was traditional, comfortable and quite acceptable to them, but the government, and Bill O'Reilly, evidently, decided it wasn't a life worth having. So, as big government is wont to do, someone waltzed in and tried to put an end to their chosen lifestyle. I never heard the end results of their mission. Were they successful in reforming these unfortunates?

If it were any other established people group the liberals and bleeding hearts would be appalled! Can you imagine going into a traditional Native American village and forcing them to live like 'the rest of us decent people'? You would be on the front pages by evening and probably walking the plank by the next morning; that is, unless you are a medical volunteer who is stepping in and forcing them to receive pharmaceuticals that they have deemed necessary 'for the good of the community'. But that is a whole 'nuther blog...

Different is not dangerous, it is right! Leave them alone, for God's sake! The view and judgement of the powers that be and lack of understanding is nothing more than short sightedness on their part. They are the first people to tack the label of narrow or closed minded on to others, and most guilty among them. Take a deep breath! Take a nap! Take a hike!

I didn't mean for this to become a rant, but I guess it was one. Actually, I am very happy today. I am just hopeful that 'polite society' will allow me to pursue that goal.