Epic Garden Update, April 2017, With Pictures!

It is time for the semi-annual “Oh crap! I need to do an epic garden update!” post. Because I know how much you all love getting overwhelmed with an 8 billion word post, with pictures, about what’s going on in the garden. However, as a lot of the blog posts serve as record keeping for me and the DreadBrewer, you’re out of luck. So here’s what’s going on in the garden in April of 2017.

First and foremost, this is how I finally got the time/energy to update the blog:

If I sit outside and stare at the garden, with rum punch and laptop at hand, then an update should be easy-peasy, no?

So on to what we’re up to, here at BeerCat Farm…

Doesn’t it look idyllic?

As regards our berries, it’s sort of hit or miss this year. We had serious issues with our raspberries last year, which we determined was due to lack of drainage coupled with poor pruning practices. In an attempt to remedy the situation, we tore out the old bushes, tilled, and then built brand new 4′ x 24′ beds (x 2!!!) for a new batch of plants. (We actually started with one 10′ x 24′ bed that I agreed to without considering the actual dimensions thereof. Once built, DB and I both were appalled at the sheer quantity of soil needed to fill said bed and agreed to split it into two beds, with a walkway, in order to make it ever so slightly less insanely large.) 

 

The canes look pretty pathetic now and we won’t get any berries this year, but it’ll be worth it if we can erase our mistakes.

Our blackberries are looking phenomenal this year…

However, they looked really awesome like this last year and then we had a semi-drought and a semi-heat wave and they withered on the plant. Hopefully we can avoid that this year and get a bumper crop of blackberries to offset our lack of raspberries. Though if the new raised bed works well for the raspberries, we may be looking at two new 4′ x 24′ blackberry beds in 2018.

Also, our blueberries are looking phenomenal:

And we have like 18 million berries. IF the birds don’t eat them when they’re 75% ripe and not fit for human consumption. Because birds are assholes like that. We’re planning on trying to drape bird netting over the plants AND making a scarecrow out of a discarded mannequin that DB acquired (don’t even ask) in the hopes of thwarting the little buggers. Because 4 years without more than a handful of berries is just too much to bear!

And I totally forgot to take pictures of the new strawberry bed but we have one! DB planted a 5′ x 10′ strawberry bed this year for the girls with about 15 strawberry plants. We might get some this year but most likely next year will be a bumper crop. (Fingers crossed!)

Next up: cucumbers!

 

Yes, this is empty. I know.

We are going to transplant our cuke seedlings tomorrow! DB is growing me a pickling variety this year, in addition to a new striped cultivar. I am really going to try and tackle the dill pickle conundrum in order to satiate our pickle appetite during the winter months without shelling out $3/jar for Claussens. However, even if we only manage to eat them all fresh, any reduction in our outlay for grocery store cucumbers will be a Godsend.

Beans!

We have two beds of bush beans going in succession, as well as our lima beans in the background of the 2nd pic. On the list for tomorrow is thinning the bean plants, a much dreaded but much needed task. Bush beans are one of my absolute favorite things to eat out of the garden but one of my least favorite things to harvest. Dang, I hate picking beans. They’re itchy and there’s a million of them and the bending over makes your back hurt… they just suck to harvest. Unfortunately, the girls all ADORE green beans, as do DB and I. And they are also insanely easy to preserve, be it by freezing or canning. So we grow oodles of them. And I curse them continuously while picking and praise them continuously while eating and it just seems to be the way of the world in our garden.

Lettuce and Spinach:

We attempted to use up a lot of old seed this year with our lettuce, which resulted in some patchy growth. The Buttercrunch didn’t germinate a bit, even through two attempts, so 2 years is apparently the limit for lettuce seed storage. I’m wresting with the problem of how to transport leaf lettuce farther then the kitchen – it gets wilty and limp so damn quickly that I don’t know how we would ever include it in a CSA (a not-so-distant possiblity if I have anything to say about it). Any tips on lettuce storage would be greatly appreciated. Our spinach, on the other hand, is awesome. I’ve been harvesting it not just for salads but also for these amazing muffins we’ve all been inhaling as quickly as I can bake them. I promise the recipe is forthcoming in another post.

Garlic: 

The garlic looks like it’s doing so well! Though DB says that he refuses to believe it’s doing great until it’s harvested and into storage… The left side of the bed is garlic we grew from our own sets and the right side is garlic grown from purchased sets; I’ll be interested to see which side wins when it comes to shelf life.

Artichokes: 

And yet again this year, DB is attempting to grow artichokes. I think this is madness for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that neither DB nor I has EVER had good luck cooking fresh artichokes for consumption. The canned, low-salt ones are much more palatable and a hell of a lot easier, in my opinion. But, I tend to give DB free reign in what he grows, as long as a few requests of mine are accommodated (cherry tomatoes, please!) so I can’t really say much when he wants to grow artichokes.

Tomatoes and Marigolds: 

We planted our tomatoes and marigolds over the last few days. I think we have at least 8 different cultivars of tomatoes, which we can hopefully narrow down into favorites for next year. DB being DB, he grew a ton of seedlings of each, so my dad and mother-in-law were both recipients (willing or not) of multiple tomato seedlings. Even after giving those away and planting a bunch in pots to put on the front porch, we still have a bunch we won’t be able to use. We also grew some nematocidal marigolds this year and put those in the tomato bed in an attempt to cut down on root-knot nematodes. We’ll see if they have any impact.

Napa Cabbage:

So I realize that these plants look nothing like the Napa cabbage one sees in the store. I’m not sure what cultivar DB grew or what went wrong (or right) with the type we planted, but they look like they’ll be delicious whenever we eat them.

Brassicas:

Today we planted our broccoli (Aspabroc and Tender) and cabbage (Wakamine). We are SO CRAZY LATE on getting these in the ground, especially considering it was 90 degrees here today but better late than never, right? Unless, of course, all of your brassicas bolt and go straight to seed and then taste like bitterness embodied in brassica form… and then yes, late really really sucks. Fingers crossed that we have enough cool days before the hammer of summer in North Carolina pounds down on us with a vengeance. (In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of “plant it and hope” that goes on at BeerCat Farm.)

Leeks and Onions: 

Leeks and onions are looking amazing! Except for the ones DB tried to grow from seed, which are looking pretty pathetic at the moment. I’m not sure what it is but the man can grow every single crop imaginable from seed except for leeks and onions. Those he can only manage to sprout and kill. But even Achilles had a vulnerable spot, so I guess this is DB’s. Thank God for Dixondale and Natural Gardening, because they can grow leeks and onions from seeds. And again this year we planted ridiculous quantities of both but whatever. Why mess with an overabundance of alliums if it works?

Okay, I’m fairly certain that covers most of what is going on in the garden. We did get 10 cubic yards of cedar mulch delivered and have spent quite a bit of time putting that down in between the beds. We got cedar in the hopes that it would help keep bugs down, since it works that way for clothing. It may be a baseless supposition but at least the garden will smell really good for a while.

That’s a LOT of mulch

Crazily enough, we have used nearly all of it just filling in the walkways between our beds. We have just a bit left that we will use to fill in between the raspberry beds and then we’ll be all out. We could probably have used another 5 cubic yards if we wanted to do all the places in the yard that have (and need) mulch but oh well. We’ll most likely get another 10 cubic yards delivered next year to re-up the paths and then mulch the yard bits.

And there you have it, the most recent epic garden update. If you ever wonder why I don’t update as frequently as you (or I) may like, you can simply reference this page, add in three children 5 and under as well as a full time job and running for physical and mental health, and you’ll understand. But I am so so glad we do it. Even if just for the savings in cucumbers….

Let’s do this like a Band-Aid

It’s been so long since I’ve posted anything that it keeps getting harder and harder to actually post something. Like a phone call or a text message that you keep meaning to return and keep meaning to return until so much time has passed that you’re more embarrassed to return the call or text than you are to just forget it.

So let’s just do this as quickly, briefly, and painlessly as possible, just like taking off a bandage. Let’s get an update out there and then I’ll be able to work on longer posts without the guilt.

Here’s a quick picture recap of what we’ve been up to lately:

Building and filling a new raspberry bed -an ordeal which deserves an enormous post of its own!

Taking our second annual (we hope!) trip to Hilton Head and introducing Itty Bitty to the joys of the pool

Getting to be such a big girl! 6 months old tomorrow!!

Sister love in Hilton Head

Getting the garden ready for spring

Practicing bike skills

Spending quality time with Daddy looking for grubs

First tutu! I die from cuteness.

As you can see, we’ve been pretty busy. But a garden update is forthcoming. As are ones on the girls, because they’ve been up to some pretty awesome stuff lately.

And now that I’ve taken the first step and finally posted something, hopefully the next post won’t be quite so daunting.

Tooting my own horn

I’m just proud of myself – the big girls and I ran the Colin Cancer Coalition’s Get Your Rear in Gear 5K this morning. 


And I actually managed to jog the whole thing! I finished in a little over 39 minutes, which isn’t too damn bad considering I was pushing a double stroller with nearly 80 lbs of kid. 

(For reference, my first post-Itty Bitty 5K on February 12 was about 31 minutes.) 

Everyone was super supportive and cheered when they saw us coming, which was so nice. 

I am working on updates for all of the kids and the garden and the brewing – or lack thereof- but it’s a slow process. Stay tuned! 

2016 Calendars are here!

I am so excited to say that the girls’ 2016 calendars are here!!!! 😀 It was rough trying to get pictures of everyone, particularly towards the end of my pregnancy when I was super tired, stressed, and frazzled but there are far fewer missed days for the year than I expected.

For those of you who don’t actually have any idea what I’m talking about, let me explain. When the Littlest Brewster was teeny tiny, I was obsessed with taking pictures of her. I’m pretty sure most first time parents are obsessed with taking pictures of their children. However, I decided that I wanted to do something with the gajillions of photos, rather than just have them languish on our hard drive forever. But I didn’t want just a photo album, I wanted something interesting and fun. I thought about trying to do a photo book or something like that but quickly realized upon attempting one that it would be a ton of work and money. Then, I came up with the idea of doing a calendar.

Shutterfly lets you put any picture you want on any day you want, which works out really really well if you’re as anal retentive as I am and you meticulously label and file your digital photos. For example, if I were to take 2 photos today, the first would be labeled Jan.22.17.1 and the second would be labeled Jan.22.17.2. And then they would be sorted into month and year folders under each child’s name, with the understanding that if there is more than one child in the photo, it will go into the oldest girl’s file. (i.e. a picture of LB and BIT from today would go into LB’s Jan 2017 folder.) I know this sounds like a ton of work but I find it very soothing to sit with my laptop and “do my pictures” as I call it. Especially if I can do so with a glass of wine…

After I get all the photos for a month labeled and sorted, I upload them to Shutterfly and get that month done for the year. Sometimes I’ll get a few months behind but it’s not really that big of a deal, as I can usually knock out a calendar month of picture placement in 30-45 minutes.

So when you look at the girls’ calendars, you know that the picture placed on Jan 16, 2016 was actually taken on Jan 16, 2016. And so on and so forth, for the whole year. If there’s a day that I missed, I just leave it blank. For the big picture of the month, I just pick my favorite picture of each girl for that month.

And everyone said that I could do it with one kid, but I’d never be able to do it with two.

But I did.

And then everyone said I could do it with two kids, but I’d never be able to do it with three.

But I did.

Granted, Itty Bitty only had 3 months of 2016 to cover but I am still damn proud of myself for having kept this up. I think that it is one of the projects I am most proud of and one of the neatest keepsakes that we have.

But enough tooting my own horn. Here are some snaps from our 2016 calendars!

2016-cal-1 2016-cal-2 2016-cal-3 2016-cal-4 2016-cal-5