Monday, November 28, 2011

Harvest tally - 2011 edition

Although some of the quantities harvested weren't as good as last year, or weren't as plentiful as I would have hoped for, the harvest of other things far surpassed my expectations, so overall I can say I am pretty pleased with our 2011 garden!

Lets see how things tallied up, shall we? I don't have accurate counts from last year although I do remember approximate numbers and have included some of them for comparison...

3 baggies of Corn
This was really disappointing. We planted half as much corn as last year, and it just didn't do as well. I think I need to go back to the variety I grew the year before, because it did much better. Also I need to grow twice as much next year!

2 cups of Popping Corn
We got a fair number of harvestable heads of popping corn, but since we don't really eat pop corn I'm now wondering why I thought growing it would be so cool. Hmmm... mama fail there. At least at work we have a popcorn popper so I can donate the kernels to my coworkers!

4 Gallon bags of Tomatoes
(plus lots of cherry tomatoes eaten throughout the season - mostly by Little M!) This was encouraging. Last year we had more plants, but they weren't caged or supported at all so it was a disaster trying to harvest them. This year, with 4 cages, it was much better. The two extras that I planted without cages were still a disaster, but at least they only sprawled onto the potatoes! I think in the future I'll try to pick an earlier ripening variety so that we get more from each plant. Most of the tomatoes ripened on the sunporch, very few were ripe before the first frost. I also really need to get around to getting these canned!

0 Watermelons
I think in order to get more usable & profitable space in the garden, I need to postpone my quest for a ripe watermelon from my very own garden... Sad, but likely true! :)

1/4 cup of Dry Beans
This was fairly disappointing - even less than the dismal 1/2 cup I harvested last year! I tried a different variety, and I think that was a mistake. I likely need to try again next year and try picking a shorter growing season bean.

5 baggies worth of Green Beans
We had several meals worth, and froze several more, but just didn't have the production that we had last year. And last year's 10-15 baggies frozen didn't make it until spring, so I need to improve here!

LOTS of Peas
We had SO many peas this year! the sugarsnap peas kept producing almost until frost, which was amazing. We had weird weather - a much cooler summer than normal, and although it affected most of my plants negatively, it sure was great for the peas. Little M loved the peas, and we had so many sugarsnaps initially that I was giving bowl after bowl away at work! I need to figure out something to do with them other than eat them fresh. Frozen and used in stirfries? Hmmm... the normal peas were great too, although I let them get a bit past early on and that slowed most of them right down. We had one delicious meal of them with some friends, but other than that I didn't shell and cook them. Next summer I really need to get my act together better and blanch and freeze them so that we can eat them throughout the winter. Frozen peas get used in lots of dishes here, and being able to use our own would be great!

4+ cups of Raspberries
We ate most of the raspberries straight off the vine. I do however have a tub saved in the freezer for a smoothy in the depths of winter (don't tell my husband where they are though!). I think next summer we will have more, and hopefully I will be able to put up more.

4+ cups of Strawberries
We ate WAY more than this. This is just what I have saved in the freezer to make jam with (any day now!). Next summer I will try to save more, but they are just so delicious its hard to put them in a bowl let alone the freezer!

25-ish Potatoes
We dug up maybe 10 russets and about 15 fingerlings, but I didn't weigh them. This was our first success with potatoes, and we were pretty thrilled. We still really need a good storage spot for them, but next year we plan to grow more! (if we can find the space). I want to grow some Yukon Gold potatoes next year - they are my favorite!

3 cups of chopped Peppers
We grew several different varieties of peppers, and typical me, I didn't really let any of them ripen enough before eating them, freezing them, or using them on pizza's. I like green peppers, but my husband likes sweeter peppers, so next year I really need to be more patient and let them ripen more on the plants!

1 (sad) Zuchini
Need more than just one plant. Also need to place them in a better spot! (huh, guess sticking them in the shade of the overgrown raspberries didn't work!)

0 Cucumbers
Picked a poor spot for these guys too. wimpy plant, zero mature cuc's!

5 Butternut SquashThis includes several small ones that likely aren't fully ripened/hardened. Last year we had around 7 butternut, and I recall them all being riper than these seem to be.

7 Hubbard Squash
This also includes a small one that likely really won't have much edible portion inside. There is one huge one, but overall we got much less squash than last year, where I think we had upwards of 15.

3 Pumpkins
Two large & one small. Last year we had 6, but 3 were small and from my husband's wildlife garden, that he didn't have pumpkins in this year. So about the same. Since we just use these for carving at Halloween, 3 was fine :)

20-ish small onions
I was very disappointed with our onion harvest. A lot of the onions just weren't ready to be picked by the late fall - they were still growing leaves and had very little root bulb developed as all their energy was in their leaves. I tried to harvest and dry these as best I could, but I'm not sure whether they sucked because of poor soil conditions or tending, or if it was just a poor year for onions here!

15-ish carrots
The carrots didn't do as well as last year, due to poor germination and then overgrown weeds! Lesson learned - I really need to way overseed and then thin if necessary!! (oh, and be better about staying on top of the weeds!!)

3 beets
These were sort of planted on a whim, none of my family is into beets, but my MIL is, and had these seeds leftover from the previous year. I offered to plant them and give them to her, but didn't bother checking germination, just threw them into the ground alongside radish seeds and hoped for the best. Well, lesson learned! Likely we won't grow beets again for a couple years.

10 radishes
These were rather spicy for us, so next time I need to pick a milder variety, or do something different in growing them. I did let them go to seed though, and so could use those seeds next year if I decide not to buy new ones. I think if I found a different way to eat them, or pick them earlier, or water them more, they might be less spicy? I'm not that familiar with growing radishes; its been awhile, so I'm not sure.

Before next spring I'll have to figure out where we will have the manure pile - right now we have a black plastic compost bin by the house, but no formal compost bins by the garden or coop... I've been dreaming of a three bin system near the garden or coop, but haven't even gotten around to sketching it out or figuring out the board lengths needed, let alone starting to save up for the lumber or deciding on a location... Hopefully by next spring we'll have the location and design down and will just need to purchase lumber and build it!

This past spring I had really hoped to be working on a garden addition by this fall or next spring, but I'm thinking that is likely still at least a year off. I've really been wanting raised beds closer to the house, orchard, and coop, but we just haven't prioritized saving for the building materials. Oh the things we are sacrificing to try to get this house paid off ;)

As far as the garden composition, obviously it will have to change next summer to include more corn, more beans, more tomatoes, and less.... hmmm.... well I'll have to work on that one a bit more over the winter months, because it does seem like I would like to have more to harvest of pretty much everything we harvested this year! I would really love to be growing enough to can and freeze so that we would have food from the garden kept until the next summer. We were nearly there with corn last year but not much else, but this year I think we are a bit further away from that goal on things like corn, because of how many different things we grew even though we had more variety in what we have preserved.

Ah... now the planning for next year's garden can begin :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Putting the garden to bed

So I had planned to post on this for quite some time now, but had been putting off taking pictures of the fall garden until it was 'done' Well, with the snow last week, 'done' was forced upon me, and the snow made end-of-fall pictures impossible! Normally I'm pretty good about taking lots of during photos, but not this time apparently (bad blogger!). Here are the last couple shots I have of the garden, very noticeably before harvest, from early October.

So then, here is what I did to put the garden to bed for the winter, minus pictures.
  • Trimmed the raspberry bushes back so I could easily access the far end of the garden without getting mauled by their overgrown stalks!
  • Hoed and raked out the weeds and dead plants throughout the entire garden, with the exception of the strawberries, raspberries, black raspberries, and garlic chives.
  • Spread a layer of chicken manure over all the hoed up areas.
  • Went back over everything and hoed the chicken manure back in (well, this didn't quite happen everywhere as the ground froze in the far end of the garden before I could finish. In fact, I wouldn't have even gotten as far as I did if I hadn't have drafted a visiting friend into helping me - thanks A!)
  • Spread leftover dead plants (squash vines, corn plants, some weeds) back over the soil to decompose over the winter and add some nutrients back while providing a bit of soil cover
  • Planted the garlic
  • Mulched the strawberries, garlic, and garlic chives
  • Wrapped plastic trunk wrappers around the apple trees in the bottom end of the garden
All told, I put 4 or 5 wheelbarrow loads of chicken manure on the garden, so I'm thinking next years plants will have lots of good soil to grow in. As I was working on putting the garden to bed for the winter, I thought about where next years crops would go, to make sure that I focused the manure in the right areas (corn, tomatoes), and didn't put as much on other areas (garlic), depending on what plants I planned to plant where.

In all likelihood, since I haven't started next years garden plan, by the time next spring comes, I'll have totally forgotten where I wanted the corn to go, but I just can't get up the motivation to start planning next years garden yet! I've still got some tomatoes out on the sunporch ripening slowly, I don't want to think about next year yet! Luckily we've got several months before I need to start thinking about ordering seeds, and several more before the garden is workable again. Here it is now with a nice snow coating on it. Since the sun won't hit the garden until sometime in February, I'm pretty sure this snow is going to stay put for quite some time :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

First & Second Snowfalls!

So remember how last Friday I posted in the evening about how eager I was for snow to arrive? Yeah, so within I would say 10 minutes of pushing the publish button on that post my husband looked out on the back deck and said it was snowing! It sure was, big wet flakes were pelting down from the sky. I quickly realized I wasn't nearly as ready for snow as I thought. We had a mad dash around outside with our headlamps on for about 15 minutes, moving the left over pumpkins over to the chicken run for the chickens to finish them up, moving one last hose into the garage, moving some last irrigation bits in onto the garage workbench, and piling dirt over the irrigation turnout I dug up in the spring and never quite finished reburying!

I snapped a few dark pictures of the snow falling onto the back deck, but almost as soon as we got inside, the snow tapered off and really didn't amount to much. The next morning it looked really wintery outside, but the snow really hadn't covered much ground and was quick to melt off all but the really shaded areas right by the north facing hills where the sun never reaches in the winter.

Yesterday, though, we were forecast to get anywhere from 4-8 inches, or more depending on what forecast you were reading. We didn't end up with quite that much, but I took the Jeep in to work (my husband and visiting father-in-law were up cutting wood so they needed the truck). My husband didn't think my car would make it back up the hill down by the highway depending on how much snow we got, and although it likely would have done ok, it was very nice to have the Jeep in 4 wheel drive and not have to worry.

This morning the landscape is looking very snowy, with about 4 inches on the ground. I'm sad that I have to go in to work and can't stay at home and take a walk around looking for cougar tracks in the fresh snow!

Monday, November 14, 2011

On Cougars.

About 2 weeks ago, the day after our friends B & K left after being here a week and a half, and the day before my best friend A was due to arrive for a bit over a week, my husband filled his cougar tag. It sounds more exciting than it was (for us at least!). The local game agent, who my husband knows fairly well through work, called my husband to say he had just shot a problem cougar, did my husband want it to fill his tag? My husband, always eager for more skulls (yup, I married the right guy!), eagerly said YES! Before really telling me what was going on (on our one night to ourselves in the midst of a month of madness mind you!), he was on the phone with a close friend who lives nearby. My husband convinced K (and his wife and their son who is the same age as Little M) to bring the whole family over so the guys could process the cougar while the girls played with the kiddos.

Sigh. I love, absolutely love, hanging out with them, but really? Our one night off? Sigh. Of course, and as usual, us girls had a great time chatting and hanging out with the kids inside (and briefly outside watching the game agent tell the guys how to go about skinning the cat, before the kids got too cold). And the guys were quite successful in skinning the cougar and cutting the backstraps off to put in our freezers (apparently cougar backstrap tastes like pork - who knew!). All told, it was a good night, although not the night I had envisioned.

So the story with the cougar is this. It had been hanging around a lady's house for a couple days, she had kids and livestock around and when the game agents went to check out the cougar it approached them, so obviously fairly acclimated to humans. There wasn't a good spot to put the normal livetrap, and leaving the cougar there just wasn't a safe option, so the game agent had to shoot it. Knowing that my husband wanted a cougar skull, the game agent gave us a call, and that was that!

Now, on to the more recent and personally more exciting cougar story. On friday, my husband and I (and Little M and the dogs of course) were on a ramble around our property and wandered back through the field next door. I had been seeing crows, ravens, and magpies flitting around and was wondering if there was a deer dead in there or something. We came across a spot where there was a lot of blood and the stomach contents of an animal, presumably a deer, but no other sign. It seemed strange, but after some searching around the area didn't reveal anything further, we shrugged and walked back home.

Fast forward to last night. I had just put Little M down to bed, and one of the dogs started barking from the sun porch. I went out to see what Lily was barking at, stepping over a sleeping Tia to do so. I figured there mustn't be much happening if Tia was sleeping through it, then realized I was hearing noises outside. I told Lily she was ok and stuck my head out the patio door. My first thought was, that sounds like a cat. Then I heard deer thumping away as they moved through the field next door, and thought, oh, it must just be deer mating or something. Then I heard a brief strange bleating sound. Again, I thought, oh, I guess that is what deer mating sounds like, there is no way there is really a cat next door.

I let Lily out, keeping a close eye on her in the floodlights, and called my husband, who was at work. He had talked to the game agent earlier, who had told him that blood sign like we saw in the field is often a sign that a mother cougar and her kits are in the area. They kill a deer and the blood and stomach contents is all that is remaining after they eat their fill and carry off the rest of the carcass to munch on later. Hmm, I thought, as I urgently called Lily to come a bit closer to the deck. But I thought, no, there is no way there is really a cougar in the field next door.

Fast forward to this morning. I had to be in at work early for a day that I also have to take Little M to daycare. The house was still shaded by the hills to the east when we left, and imagine my surprise to see the head, just the head, of a young deer on the road as I drove down the road to daycare, right as I passed that field next door. Hmmm, I thought to myself, as I started to laugh. I guess those weren't deer mating last night. My next thought was, COOL - I heard a cougar kill a deer last night!

After talking with E, the lady who watches Little M a couple days a week, I called my husband and convinced him to check under the back deck for cougars before letting the dogs out, and to maybe call the game agent again and to check the head out on the road on his way in to work. The game agent said to look for the nose of the deer being chewed off, as that is fairly characteristic of cougar kills, and sure enough, the deer head had the nose chewed off.

The game agent should be bringing a trap by in the next couple days to see if he can trap the cougar (and her kits if it is a mom), and hopefully he will be able to collar her and ID chip her kits and then release them back here. We certainly aren't minding having a cougar nearby, although it does make me more cautious with the dogs after dark, and more mindful of my back when I go out to get wood in the evenings!  I would really not be very happy if the cougar had to be shot because I was careless with our animals, that is for sure. Hopefully we will get some pictures from a nice safe distance, and then the cougar will move off and live a happy life up in the high country eating lots of tasty deer :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eagerly awaiting snow

So it hasn't yet snowed here this fall, but we are eagerly awaiting the first flakes. Sometime this weekend perhaps? Looking at the cameras on the mountain highway passes around the state there are some snowy drives happening right now! This afternoon when I had to dash into the grocery store the car in front of mine had a bunch of snow in the front bumper! Made me wonder where they were earlier this afternoon :)

We were up in the hills nearby cutting one of the last loads of firewood for the fall. We've got the most firewood we've ever had, so hopefully we've started on next winter's firewood already. That would be nice :) And now, with all of our stacks of firewood, we can wait for snow while snuggling inside by the woodstove, playing with Lego's, and eating delicious homegrown & homemade squash soup. Yum!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fall hunting pictures

So it has been a busy few weeks here. We've had old school & academy friends of my husband's visit for their yearly vacation up here duck hunting, we've had old school friends of mine visit, my husband shot a deer and tagged a cougar that the game agents had to put down, I had a construction project at work that I had to be on-site observing once or twice a day to help out the project manager while he was off at training for a week, and we had a crazy few days with our rental house. It made for a busy end to October and start to November!

But here I am, determined to get back to regular posting :) I thought I would start by sharing some of the pictures we've taken over the last month. These ones are mostly from duck camp with family & friends.
 Dirty camping girl.

Sagebrush sunset.

 Little M in the sagebrush.

 Mama & pyjama girl by the campfire.

Camo girl.

Dried grass & grey morning skies.

 Rainbow cows.

The floppy eared cow.

Sandhill cranes in a field.

Hunter in the distance lost in the grass.

Pretty blue & grass.

The guys sneaking up on a jump hole up on top.

Remi eagerly retrieving a male mallard duck.

Mama & Little M watching the puppy.

Lily practicing her duck retrieval skills.

Fall colors, out-west style.

Pretty sunset.

 Hanging out with Grampa in the morning in her pyjama's.
The cliff lakes

That's all for now, hope you liked them!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Do you have a life list?

So I've seen a couple blogs this past week write about life lists. You know when something becomes trendy and you don't want to be trendy or do the current 'in' things, but find yourself really liking whatever the idea is? Yeah. I'm there. While I sorta have a life list of birds I've seen, I don't have a life list like these blogs are talking about. I don't have a master list of things I want to do in my life.

At times in the past I've had lists of things I wanted to do before moving. When I lived in B.C. I had a list of things I wanted to do before I left. I'm pretty sure when I was back in Ontario I had a list of things that I wanted to do before I moved out west. But now that I am in that adult stage of being 'married with kid and real job and house', I don't have a list of things I want to do in my life. Because now that I am here, the next steps aren't as major as, say, packing up and moving out west in my truck...

So the idea really stuck in my head. The concept of having a goal, or a set of goals, to be living my life around is one that I think is important. I do have a list of sorts of where I want to be with my life in 6 months, 1 year, 3 years. And while I have never had a list for longer term things than that, I think it is something that really appeals to me. I'm a pretty driven person, so I'm really not worried about waking up one day in the future and wondering where my life went, but I do like knowing I am aiming high and getting more out of life. Since I generally think that lists are pretty great, making a list of all the dreams I have for the future sounds pretty good to me!

So far I've only got a few things on my list. Visit all the continents. Swim with dolphins. Visit Alaska again. Visit all of my grandparents graves. Shoot a deer. But I'm sure with a little time and a bit more thought, I'll be able to come up with a fitting list. What about you? Are you feeling like following this current blog-world trend? Do you have a life list? Should I share mine here once I am done it?
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