Saturday, July 23, 2016

July Garden Update and a Surprise

Garden season is in full swing, so i'm pretty much neglecting everything else. i'll get back to making dolls, and others crafts later this fall. Right now i am very much enjoying keeping my focus on the garden.

Eary this spring we had our soil tested at the local extension office, and then added the amendments that were needed. My gardens were very low on potassium and phosphorus, and the ph was also a bit off.  We purchased our amendments locally from Seven Spring Farm. We added alfalfa meal to supplement the potassium and rock phosphate for the phosphorus. i also got a liquid kelp fertilizer to use through the season. i wanted to stay away from chemical and animal based (bone meal) fertilizers.

So far the amendments seem to be working. Especially in my lower garden that was really messed last year. Almost everything we planted just turned brown and died, i knew there was a ph problem or a deficiency, but wasn't sure what it was. i've since learned that it was extremely deficient in Potassium, and i know the signs to watch for now and know how to treat it. 

This photo was taken around the second week of July (12th). Beans were really starting to produce, i was getting lots of cucumbers, just starting to get some tomatoes and still getting a few sugar snap peas. The cucumber with the brown skin is called a Sikkim cucumber. This is my first time growing them.

This photo is from the 14th. i have new lettuce coming in, a few peppers ripe and a couple cauliflower that were really taking their time. They were planted the same time as the broccoli. so i'm not sure why they waited until July to form a crown.  i also planted the purple cauliflower and fractal broccoli this year, and none of them formed crowns. i've had any luck with the fractal broccoli, but i plant it every year in hopes that it will produce.

July 17th.  i am picking this amount beans almost daily. i've been freezing them, and plan to can some this week as well. My cucumbers actually did well this year, although almost overnight the plants have all started to die back. Not sure if it's wilt from the cucumber beetles or something else.  Summer squash is just starting to produce. Still getting sugar snaps and snow peas.

i planted a bunch of beets this year, and for the first time ever they are doing really well! My root veggies typically have a tough time and end up bolting, but the beets are doing great this year. My carrots however, didn't do well at all. i had planted a pretty purple/black carrot from Baker creek and it was a bad batch of seeds. They sent out a new pack of seeds and later i was given store credit for a few other seeds that didn't produce true to type. Anyhow, i ended up with a bunch of pale yellow, white and orange carrots (i'd planted mostly red, purple and black) lol. The carrot green started dying back from carrot blight, so i ended up pulling many of them early. i have more carrots planted, so i'm hoping the next crop does better.  i also have several cabbage ready to pick.

Surprise!!! More baby chicks!! Holy cow, i think we've hatched out over 50 this spring and summer!  We've given away around 20 so far, and have someone that is planning to take another 9.  i still have a ton of cockerals that need to be rehomed. :/  This was a total surprise. i didn't even realize this hen was missing. Sage was out picking blackberries and came running in to tell me she heard peeping in the blackberry patch. We peeked inside and found this hen still setting on eggs. It was a couple days before she ventured out of the backberries, and we were able to get a look at the new chicks. 

Looks like she has 12. Wow.  My daughter said this must be the year of the chickens. Hopefully we'll be able to find a home for them all together. Makes it easier when folks will take them all and not just the girls. 

This summer has been busy, but fun. Last weekend we took a trip to WV for a family reunion, and Kenan and Sage are spending a week in Michigan. My boy has band camp, so that's a week of driving back and forth to Floyd. we have a trip to Williamsburg and Lego Brick Fair planned before heading back to school, which starts up the second week of August. i'm also so sad at how quickly the summer goes. Doesn't really help that this year i was sick most of June.

i've been busy with the garden and having fun testing/reviewing products for Amazon. :)   Looking forward to working on dolls again, and i bought a pattern to make myself a new dress. i've been trying to find the perfect fabric, but just haven't found it yet. It's the sweetest pattern though, so i'll be sure to post about it when i get it made.   This is a bit of rambling blog post, but it feels like it's been a while since i updated.  Summertime just never seems long enough.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wondersoil Superseed -Product Review

i have several areas in my yard that just won't grow grass, so i was excited for the opportunity to try out Wondersoil SuperSeed grass seed mix.  Wondersoil® is a light weight soilless growing medium made from Premium Coconut Coir fiber with guaranteed low salt.  SuperSeed is a combination of mulch, fertilizer, and seed all in one bag, so it is really easy to use. You just put down a thin layer, water well and rack through it to even.  Then keep it moist for 4-5 days until it germinates. 

It is enriched organically with Coconut Coir Fiber, worm castings, humus, kelp and more. The Coconut coir fiber is a renewable resource that increases water and nutrient retention, improves drainage and aeration while inhibiting pests, weeds and disease. The seed mix is non-toxic and child and pet safe. The dry formula will expands instantly up to 7 times when water is added, so one 10 lb bag will cover up to 300 sq ft.

i got the fescue grass, although it is available in other grass seed options. i put it in an area where i was having a hard time getting any grass to grow. It's a heavy foot traffic area, and my soil is heavy in clay so nothing wants to grow there, not even weeds. 

i was planning to post a before and after photo, but we ended up getting a ton of rain right after i applied it and it washed all the seed away. Thankfully, i had only used a little bit and was able to reseed it.  i'm looking forward to seeing it really fill in. i've been trying to grow grass in this spot for years. It's right in front of the front steps and just looks terrible. 

i really like that that the Wondersoil Superseed is non-toxic and safe and contains so many natural and organic ingredients. Since it contains fertilizers, mulch and seed you won't have to feed it for several months. i'll post an updated picture once it starts filling in.

Disclosure: i received this product for free/discounted in exchange for my honest review. i was not compensated. My opinions are 100% my own.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Berry Season!!

It's berry season!!! Despite a last frost//freeze that wiped out all of our early blueberries, this year is turning out to be a fantastic berry season. The red and black raspberries have been incredibly abundant this year, and the blackberries are just getting getting started!   This is the first year we've also had wineberries!

We planted a few wineberries 3 years ago, but this is the first year they've produced berries.  The plants have already begun to spread, so i suspect in a few more years we'll have a really nice wineberry patch. 

So far, i have made red raspberry and black raspberry jam, and several cobblers.  i also have a freezer full of berries.

i made a 4 berry cobbler, using my favorite cobbler recipe. i have it posted here, it's super easy. 

Although our early blueberryies didn't do anything this year, we have a few later varieties that are starting to ripen.  This week i'll be working on picking/freezing blueberries and making a batch blackberry jam. Looking forward to a freezer full of berries again.

"Quickberry ! Quackberry ! Pick me a Blackberry !" "Trainberry, Trackberry, Clickety-Clackberry;" "Rumble and Ramble in Blackberry Bramble," "Billions of Berries for Blackberry Jamble !" 
- Bruce Degen, Jamberry

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Beans in the Garden.

Beans are something i grow every year. They are extremely easy to grow,  germinate quickly and can be planted every three weeks for a continuous harvest into the fall.  Bush bean varieties are ready for harvest in 45 to 60 days; pole bean varieties are ready for harvest in 60 to 85 days.  i like to freeze, can and eat my beans fresh.  When i first started growing beans, i grew green beans because that's what i grew up with. i had no idea there was such a variety of snap beans. Each year i try out a new variety, here are some of my favorites.

From left to right Red Swan (bush) Rattlesnake/preacher beans (pole), Purple pole (pole), Dragon tongue (bush) and Royal Burgundy (bush). These all cook up green except the Dragon tongue which is a flat yellow bean. Purple pole are my favorites, but the Red swan is a close second. i also have yellow wax beans, sunset runners and a few regular ol' green bean planted too, but they are not ready yet.

Red Swan Beans are a new favorite. The are a little shorter than other varieties i've grown, but the beans are a beautiful red, they have lovely white/cream/pink flowers, are very productive and cook up green.  Red Swan beans are a bush variety, so they don't require poles or trellising.

Rattlesnake/Preacher beans (pole  are green with purple streaking, they go by both Preacher beans- they give the preacher something to preach about and Rattlesnake beans because the dried beans resemble rattle snake coloring. This heirloom has unusual, dark-green pods streaked with purple.   An old timey favorite!  i find they grow well up garden fencing.

Purple Podded (Pole) are my  personal favorite. The pods are bright purple, stringless, and tender. Plants grow to 6’ and produce heavy yields.  Unlike bush beans which tend to have one big crop, these pole beans continue to produce heavily all summer long. The beans are a beautiful dark purple, they are slightly flat, very long and cook up green.

Dragon Tongue Beans (bush) is a fun unusual variety.  They are a compact bush bean with flat yellow pods with purple streaking.  i didn't feel the yield on these was a good as the other varieties, but i really like the unusual color, i like that they are a flat bean they cook up yellow and are very tender.  i'll definitely be growing these again.

Royalty Purple (Bush)  Tender, bright purple pods turn green when cooked. Very ornamental, beautiful and tasty.  They cook up green. They only take about 50 days till harvest, so i typically plant them again in July, and sometimes August.

i also plant Runner beans, more as ornamentals even though they are edible. These are Sunset runners, Scarlet runner look similar but are bright red. i used to grow both, but i think they crossed pollinated over the years and now i  just get the salmon colored ones.

i'm always excited to discover new varieties, and share about them here.  If you have any favorite varieties of snap beans, i'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Moth Whisperer.

A few nights ago we forgot to turn the porch light off and in the morning there were all kinds of beautiful and unique looking moth hanging out on the side of the house. My daughter and i had fun looking up what each type of moth was and then decided to try leaving a different light on each night to see what we attracted. My daughter loves them, and is constantly holding them/carry them around and seeing how many she can get to walk on her hands without flying away. We've started calling her the moth whisperer.

The one is a Giant Leopard moth.   It's caterpillar is a Wooly bear type with a thick coat of black bristles and red or orange colored bands between its segments. They do not cause irritation like many caterpillars do. We've had several of these visit each night that a light is left on.

We find lots of Sphinx and Hawkmoths. Some are difficult to identify, but i believe these are a Small Eyed Sphinx and Virginia Creeper Sphinx.  

This one was huge! It is a Tulip-tree Silkmoth. This one looks similar to a few other large moths but is distinguished by the two T's on it's wings, which make it easy to remember the name Tulip Tree moth

Imperial Moth. We have found several of these. They are huge! My daughter calls them Banana Pepper moths. :) 

Two Imperial Moths and a Luna that was pretty beat up.  We were very excited to have attracted one though.

Then the very next day, we were visited by this lovely Luna Moth, this is the one we were waiting for and hoping to attract.  It's wings were perfect and it was so beautiful!!  It's been a really interesting experiment to see the different moths that we can attracted, the coolest of them so far have come from light on the south facing side of the house.

 My little moth whisperer has taken such an interest in them.  We'll probably continue to leave a light on each night throughout the summer to see what other amazing moths we can attract and identify. 

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous- Aristotle

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Homemade lip balm with Deluxe Botanicals 100% pure organic beeswax.

My daughter has recently taken an interest in making her own beauty products.  A few weeks ago we make bath bombs and bath salts.  For her birthday she got a lip balm making kit, but i was pretty disappointed in it.  The lip balm base was petroleum jelly. It came with flavor gel to mix in, but it really wasn't what i was expecting.

So when i recently had the opportunity to try out some Cosmetic grade beeswax, i jumped at the chance!  Back in the day i use to make all kinds of homemade bath and beauty products.  Lip balms and healing balms are always a favorite.

We made our homemade lip balm using ‪#‎deluxebotanicals‬ 100% pure organic beeswax!
Super basic, easy recipe. i plan to make more when i get some other flavor oils and tubs to use.  
This recipe is 1 part coconut oil, 1 part olive oil, 2 parts beeswax, vitamin E (optional) and a drop or two of essential oil (we used peppermint).  

For making just one tub i used a 1/2 tsp to measure. So my amounts were 1/2 tsp coconut oil, 1/2 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp beeswax. It made the perfect amount to fill our tub.

Melt beeswax, olive oil and coconut oil in a double boiler or small glass bowl over a small pot of boiling water, stirring constantly until melted. Add  a couple drops of Vitamin E and your essential oil ( a drop or two) and pour into your lipbalm tubs. 

It's sets up quickly. Then we decorated our container with a few stickers. 

i found the lipbalm tubs on ebay very reasonably priced. You can also get the roll up tubes if you prefer those.

i couldn't resist using my Doctor Who silicon molds to make a tardis and dalek. Both Kenan and i use beeswax in our work, i use it as a thread conditioner when beading, he uses it with his glass work although i'm not entirely sure how.  The wax works really well with the molds and would make excellent candles.

i'm very happy with the Deluxe Botanicals organic beeswax.  It smells wonderful, is 100% pure, organic and non GMO. It melts so smooth and works wonderful for cosmetics, candles and more.

i received this product for free or discount for my honest and unbiased review. i only review products that i actually use and recommend, i was not compensated for this review.