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Why do long holiday weekends go by so fast? Probably because I try and cram so much into them. And did I ever cram this weekend.

The garden is doing great. I picked so many peas this week I couldn’t keep up and had to start freezing them. This makes me very happy because I love peas so much and now even after the peas are done producing I will have some for a little longer especially since I have only just begun picking them.

Black raspberries

Black raspberries

Last week I mentioned the black raspberries were turning red, well, once they go red, they don’t take but a couple days to turn black and ripe. So I have started picking. The netting has done well to keep critters away. I have never had black raspberries before and was expecting them to be a bit tart like the red ones but they are slightly sweet, rich and kind of earthy, if that makes sense. Very tasty. Since this is only their second year there aren’t a huge amount but there will be enough to make into something, so as they get ripe I have been picking and then freezing them. Once they are all ripe we’ll see how much there is and go from there. I like them very much and may just have to plant some more in the chicken garden.

Last week I said I wasn’t going to bother to pick the elderberries but I changed my mind. I picked about a dozen very ripe berries and then froze them. The gooseberries are starting to get ripe and I even have a few

Gooseberries

Gooseberries

red currents, so I am freezing all of those too. I figure between gooseberries, currents and elderberries I might be able to cook up a tasty bit of jam. Why is it that so many berry bushes have thorns? The black raspberries have tiny ones but they will still get you if you aren’t careful. The current has very tiny ones that are just big enough to get your attention. The gooseberries have big, dangerous thorns that hurt like heck. When I am picking them I sing a little song called “Ouch” over the shrub. It has not yet drawn blood but I suspect it is only a matter of time.

I picked a bunch of radishes this week too. I had some sliced up on my tempeh sandwich today along with broccoli sprouts and a little mustard. So tasty! When picking radishes I realized I have to get better at thinning. I had thinned them but not aggressively enough which means much smaller radishes in spots where they are crammed together. If I had thinned them better I would have fewer radishes but the ones I did have would be much, much larger. I had to thin the beets and I think I did a better job at it. We shall see.

Looks like snake eggs but is really a fungus, darn

Looks like snake eggs but is really a fungus, darn

Here is the garden mystery of the week. Bookman was weeding and found a nest of eggs. They were in an especially sandy part of the garden and all together in a clutch, each one about the size of a walnut. What could have laid them? I investigated. They are white, felt firm and smooth but a little leathery. They look very much like snake eggs. So I did some snake research. Minnesota has 17 different kinds of snakes and of those only nine lay eggs. Of those nine two are very rare. Of the remaining seven because of range and habitat I was able to narrow down the possibilities to two. I decided that it wasn’t a gopher snake because they like to eat rodents, frogs and small birds and our garden isn’t exactly a prime food source for those critters. Squirrels on the other hand… So I decided the eggs must belong to a smooth green snake that solely eats insects, especially crickets of which we have an abundance. I was so excited about the prospect of having snakes in the garden that I’d go out an check on the eggs every evening to see if they had hatched.

Today when I checked on them I discovered that they aren’t eggs at all! It turns out they are a species of fungus called mutinus elegans, also known as elegant stinkhorn, dog stinkhorn, headless stinkhorn and, my favorite, devil’s dipstick. We’ve had the single red fruiting stalks pop up around the garden last year but they are in abundance this year. Turns out the red stalk grows out of the white eggs. When I checked on the “snake eggs” today, there were a number of the red stalks growing out of them. Fungi are good and this one is a rather weird, if rude looking one (Bookman says they look like a dog’s penis, which is true and which also might clue you in on why one of their common names is “devil’s dipstick” wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Still, I can’t help but be disappointed that I won’t be mothering any baby green snakes.

We’ve had a setback with the chicken garden, the area formerly known as garage. Bookman and I went out with rakes to rake up the sand into a pile and get to work on breaking up the compacted soil beneath. It turns out the one place we had dug beneath the sand is just about the only place in the entire area that has actual dirt under it. The rest really is nothing but sand. Well and so, there is more work to do to than previously thought. How does one go about turning sand into soil? One must add lots and lots and lots of organic material. To begin, we set up the old round black plastic compost bin we took down from the main garden last year when we built a two room post and wire bin. Good thing we saved the old plastic bin! We put it in a spot close to where we think we might plant a cheery tree next year. Since our two room bins are full we have already begun adding to the plastic bin.

Before the garage came down I was assuming there would be dirt beneath it that would need help and bought several different annual cover crops. I don’t know if they will grow in sand. An experiment is in order. I marked off an area and seeded some buckwheat. If it sprouts in a week or so I’ll mark off a few other areas and sow more. If the buckwheat doesn’t sprout I have some hairy vetch and winter oats I can try. If those aren’t successful then an inquiry into having topsoil delivered is in order and/or raised bed gardening until the soil in the whole area is generally improved. No matter how you look at it, those chickens are going to have their work cut out for them. Actually, all they have to do is poop, all the work falls to me.

We have the fence installation arranged but the work is 6-8 weeks out on their schedule. In the meantime, we are in the process of ordering the shed kit and arranging its delivery. Then we get to build it. Once the shed is up we’ll start work on the chicken coop. Huzzah!

Biking
I can happily report that Astrid and I are crash free this week! My scrapes are healing and my bruises have reached that oh so very colorful stage. It was nice to not add any new ones. It also made for a better ride. I am really liking “my route.” This week I thought I would add a bit more distance but instead decided to keep the same distance but just do some sprint intervals in a great section of trail that is paved, flat, fairly straight, wide, crosses no vehicular intersections for several miles and is not crowded with slow moving cyclists or people out walking their dogs. It worked out really well and I had fun and was pleasantly tired when I got home. I’m looking forward to doing it again next week.

In spite of the summer warmth, Bookman has been getting out on evening rides with me a couple times a week. As long as he keeps moving he doesn’t overheat and doesn’t feel the fatigue (both are MS symptoms). We have a 22 mile/35 km route we’ve done a couple times that seems to work well for him.

We had been planning on doing the half-century route In October at a ride in Mankato, Minnesota but it is close to an hour and half drive to get there so we decided to do the 60-mile route at Jesse James Days in Northfield which is less than an hour’s drive from us. Plus 60 miles is a metric century so that’s something! They have a 100 mile /161 km route that we will do next year. The Mankato ride offers pie at one of their rest stations which is a great temptation, but the Jesse James ride has free massages at the end. If only there were a ride with pie and a massage that would be be oh so heavenly.

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